Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) Interview Series: Tim Ash
Can you start by telling us a little about SiteTuners.com and your role there?
SiteTuners is a firm that is focused on improving online conversion rates. We do that though conversion consulting, landing page tests in which we guarantee performance improvement, and technology such as our AttentionWizard.com visual attention prediction tool that help improve conversion. We work with some of the biggest companies in the world, as well small businesses.
I am the co-founder and CEO of the company. My role is primarily to set the strategic direction of the company and to establish our position as one of the thought-leaders in the industry. I wrote the first book on the topic of landing page optimization and am currently working on the second edition. I am also personally involved with many of our strategic accounts. In addition, I do a lot of speaking at conferences and events, and am chairing the first ConversionConference.com in May in San Jose.
Aside from sales, what are some other worthwhile conversion goals to target and track?
It really depends on your business model. Of course, for e-commerce, the value of the conversion is the sales revenue (or more acutely the profit margin on the lifetime value of the relationship with the customer). However, many websites do not “close” the sale directly on the website. This is especially true of many business-to-business companies. A conversion can be a form-fill, whitepaper download, email newsletter or free-trial signup, or even a click-through to a more important page in the conversion funnel. Often, such “micro conversions” happen much more frequently and can be used to bulk up the number of conversions in a landing page test.
What, generally speaking, are the highest impact elements to test?
The highest impact changes that we commonly see are the headlines and calls-to-action. Copywriting is often not that well understood by online marketers. A deep grounding in persuasion and influence techniques is key to creating effective copy. Another important avenue to explore is trust and credibility. Often you can dramatically increase conversions by using various trust marks in the form of logos from marquee clients, media mentions, and transactional secure-shopping badges. Another important component of trust is “social proof” or the behavior of people like us. If many people in a similar situation behave in a certain way or take the same action, their consensus can act as a shortcut for making decisions. So using testimonials or various objective indicators of popularity (like number of customers or transactions) can be very powerful.
What are some of the most under-tested aspects of websites?
Most people think of individual elements of the page – they overlook the total experience. So we often test redesigned pages that accomplish the following whole-page goals: raising the overall level of professionalism, cutting back the amount of text, establishing a clear visual hierarchy for the page, and getting rid of unnecessary graphical clutter.
How do you know when a multivariate landing page test has gathered enough data?
Multivariate tests vary several elements of the page at the same time – for example different headlines, calls-to-action, and button colors. Some of the elements you test will matter, and others will not have any effect at all. Once you have identified the big-improvement variables you have to ask yourself if it is worth collecting more data (and running the test for a longer period) if the remaining elements do not look like they matter very much. It becomes a judgment call, and often the right thing to do is to “bank” your improvements and move on to the next test.
What do you do if a website does not have enough traffic to run even a basic head-to-head split test?
We recommend at least ten conversion actions per day to run even a small-scale A-B split test. But many businesses or individual landing pages do not reach even this traffic level. In such cases the only real option is a best-practices review of the page by outside experts. Of course testing and watching the actual responses of the landing page visitors would be the ideal approach. But a lot can be done by just fixing the obvious problems. Most landing pages have severe and fundamental problems and a review or redesign by outside experts can often have a huge impact. Our Express Review service is conducted via a recorded online meeting and provides a lot of actionable information for improving landing pages at a very inexpensive price-point.