Not unlike a lot of marketers who enter the discipline through the SEO door, my initial fascination with search marketing was the idea that you could promote and optimize a piece of content and generate large volumes of really specific search traffic.
And, also not unlike a lot of marketers, I quickly realized that traffic is only a directionally significant metric: people visiting your site is financially meaningless if you can’t turn their visit into a business-driving activity once they get there (even if you're monetizing based on CPM, you still want visitors to go deeper into your site, create a relationship and return, etc.).
The following is a collection of resources surrounding website conversion rate optimization. There’s a lot of great content out there on the subject, but there’s also a lot of sub-standard information as well, so this aims to be a good jumping off point for anyone looking to come up to speed on tweaking and tuning web content for conversions.
Getting the Lay of the Land: Four Books You Should Read First
When I dive into a subject, I like to start with a handful of nice end-to-end resources. I love blogs, but the problem is that reading a blog is often like flipping to a page in a book at random. The author might be assuming you know things about the subject that you don’t, or you might run into a lot of redundant content rehashed on multiple blogs that are all writing about a similar topic or process for the first time (the first time on their blog, anyway).
Meaty blog articles or series can be a nice way to learn something, but typically I find I get the best feel for a subject by taking a look at a comprehensive, authoritative resource like a book or eBook. Here are four great ones on the subject of conversion rate optimization:
I’d recommend everyone start here. This is an excellent look at how you can incorporate a conversion-centric mindset into every design element. Lance Loveday and Sandra Niehaus created a very digestible, visual, easy-to-understand resource with a lot of actionable advice. A new-age, conversion focused Don’t Make Me Think.
Before you run off and implement all of those great design ideas offered by Web Design for ROI, you’ll want to have a really strong testing infrastructure in place to make sure you’re reacting to actual data rather than hunches and best-guesses. This is a great manual on setting up tests, executing them, and making sense of the data. The book focuses on Google Website Optimizer (an excellent free resource in and of itself) but the tips and best practices are universally applicable.
Ion Interactive offers a lot of excellent educational materials surrounding “post-click marketing”. The premise is basically that generating conversions is more complex than landing visitors on a page. The book will get you to start thinking about the conversion process as a customizable funnel: the number and contents of pages you show a visitor should vary based on who they are, where they came from, and what you’re trying to do.
This is a very thorough look at all things landing pages. One of the strengths of the book is that it goes into great detail on the subject of predicting and measuring the impact of conversion rate optimization. Setting and accomplishing specific ROI targets is obviously a crucial piece of optimizing for conversions.
Moving Beyond the Basics: Webinars, Articles, & Pod Casts
Beyond full-length books, I find cornerstone articles and webinars to be a great way to absorb information from multiple authoritative sources in a more easily digestible fashion. Here are some great examples as it relates to conversion rate optimization:
- 5. 7 Deadly Sins of Landing Page Design - Tim Ash, author of the afore mentioned Landing Page Optimization book, hosts this webinar on common landing page pitfalls. It’s a nice overview with a lot of valuable information and suggestions.
- 6. Ion Interactive Webinars - Scott Brinker and co. produce a lot of great webinars on the subject of conversion rate optimization. These are great because tweaking web design and even web copy is such a visual task that webinars are often excellent vehicles for conveying information about landing page best practices.
- 7. PPC Hero Podcasts - Towards the same end, taking a look at real-life examples of businesses trying to generate more leads and sales is a powerful way to learn how best to convert visitors. The PPC Hero team offers a series of great podcasts where they review the landing page of a blog reader in real time, so you get to listen to a room full of PPC marketing practitioners dissect the pros and cons of a given landing page.
- 8. 101 Google Website Optimizer Tips - This is a nice list of different elements you can look at to help boost conversions.
- 9. 14 Free Tools that Reveal Why People Abandon Your Site - A very useful list of free tools that will help you to better understand how people are interacting with your site.
And Finally: Keep Up to Date By Subscribing to Some Great Blogs
Once you have a firm foundation in various aspects of optimizing for conversion, you can turn to a number of really strong blogs to get specific tips and to stay on top of evolving trends and new data points.
Here are some great blogs and frequently updated resources:
- 10. Ion Interactive Blog – Again the team at Ion offers a lot of great advice
- 11. The Future Now Blog – The team at Future Now (two of whom authored Always Be Testing) provides a ton of great data and a lot of tips around copywriting and “persuasion architecture”.
- 12. Bryan Eisenberg.Com – Co-founder of Future Now, Bryan is one of the most well-respected conversion experts around, and his recently launched blog is certain to have some valuable information about turning browsers into buyers.
- 13. Marketing Experiments– Marketing experiments has a lot of great course material and a series of free studies, webinars, and reports surrounding conversion.
- 14. Closed Loop Marketing Blog – The blog of the agency responsible for Web Design for ROI – the postings are infrequent but they’re always quality.
- 15. Web Design for ROI Resources – Excellent collection of resources having to do with usability, conversion optimization, and even data visualization! Probably the second-best resource page on the subject out there J.
- 16. Jacob Nielson’s Blog – Probably the most well respected and often referenced author on the subject of usability, Jacob Nielson publishes a lot of content that is the product of extensive and expert usability testing.
- 17. Marketing Sherpa Landing Page Resources– Nice collection of studies and tests surrounding landing page optimization.
- 18. The Invesp Blog – Khaled Saleh and his team create a lot of excellent landing page content. Also check out their free landing page templates.
- 19. The SEO Book SEO Community Forum – Another great way to become expert about a topic is interactive forums. While the SEO Book community doesn’t focus solely on conversion optimization, there are a number of people in the community with tremendous experience in the topic – having live access to industry thought leaders to bounce ideas off of and even to get feedback from regarding specific landing pages and design implementations is invaluable. SEO Book is a paid, subscription based service and is currently closed off to new membership, but you can get on the list for when they reopen to new members you can register for a free account here.
20. The Best Way to Learn What Works?
Test, Test, Test! Of course every site, company, and offering is different. The best resource in attempting to optimize conversions on your site is the knowledge you’ll gain from actually testing and documenting what works. Perusing the above resources before you start and as you proceed, however, can help you save some money while you figure out what truly works best for you and your site.