Episode 24: Key Ways to Improve Your Website Conversion Rates | With Chris Dayley

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

How much time do you spend on driving new website visitors versus maximizing your conversion rates? Perhaps enhancing conversion rates will have more instant impact on the bottom line.

Podcast 24 Minutes
Key Ways to Improve Your Website Conversion Rates | With Chris Dayley

That's what we're going to be discussing today with a digital marketing entrepreneur, speaker, and neuromarketer who helps businesses learn what users want on their website, using psychology-based testing and analytics.

He’s the founder of Smart CRO, a full-service agency that helps companies run strategies to improve website profitability.

[You can find Chris over at smart-cro.com.]


Watch the episode via your preferred pocast platform:

Topics discussed on this episode include:

  • What’s a neuro-marketer?
  • What is psychology-based testing?
  • What specifically do you mean by website conversion rates?
  • How do you incorporate website conversion rates into a marketing strategy?
  • What aspects of website conversion rates are key?
  • What else impacts website conversion rates?
  • What software do you recommend to track website conversion rates?

Full transcript:

David Bain  00:34

Key ways to improve your website conversion rates, with Chris Dayley.

The Strategic Marketing Show is brought to you by Insights For Professionals: providing access to the latest industry insights from trusted brands, all on a customized, tailored experience. Find out more over at InsightsForProfessionals.com.

Hey, it’s David. How much time do you spend on driving new website visitors versus maximizing your conversion rates? Perhaps enhancing conversion rates will have more instant impact on the bottom line.

That's what we're going to be discussing today with a digital marketing entrepreneur, speaker, and neuromarketer who helps businesses learn what users want on their website, using psychology-based testing and analytics. He’s the founder of Smart CRO, a full-service agency that helps companies run strategies to improve website profitability. A warm welcome to this Strategic Marketing Show, Chris Dayley.

Chris Dayley  01:40

Thank you so much for having me on. I'm excited to be here.

David Bain  01:43

Yeah. Thanks so much for coming on, Chris. Well, you can find Chris over at smart-cro.com. So I think two definitions are appropriate first, Chris. Firstly, what's a neuromarketer?

Chris Dayley  01:57

So neuromarketing is a fairly new type of marketing and I actually compare it favorably with behavioral economics. Behavioral economics is a new field of economics, that kind of combined psychology with economics. Neuromarketing is basically the same thing where you basically pair psychology with marketing, right?

My belief is that the basic goal of a marketer should be to figure out what makes a customer make a purchase, sign up, or take action. We need to get inside the minds of our potential customers, and figure out what is it that will drive them to take action? And what is going on inside of them that is making those decisions happen? What's the emotional state of mind that our customers are in? Different things that we do on our website, for example, how does that provoke or evoke different emotions from our customers?

There's a lot that's involved, and I would say neuromarketing and psychology-based testing are interrelated. What we're trying to do is we're trying to figure out, what are the psychological principles at play here that are making our customers behave the way that they are? First, you need to understand it if you want to influence it. And so, if we want to improve our conversion rates, we need to understand why our customers are converting the way they are currently.

David Bain  03:19

Right. Okay. So hence: psychology-based testing. I think it's a good idea to actually also start with your view on what really you mean by website conversion rates at the moment, because I guess the definition has changed quite a bit over the years.

I remember back in, probably about 2009 or so, Google introducing some kind of split testing tool. I can't even remember what it was called at the time. But I remember split testing different images and trying to improve conversion rates based on that, but I'm sure it's improved quite a bit since then.

Chris Dayley  03:55

It has. I mean, there's all sorts of A/B testing tools now that are available. In terms of how I defined website conversion rates - a conversion, the way that I define it is the action that you want a visitor on your website to take. So that could be a click, could be a phone call, it could be a form completion, or it could be a purchase of a product, right? With each company that I work with, that's part of the initial process of setting a strategy, it’s defining what is it exactly that we want people to do on our site?

There are micro conversions, and there are macro conversions. A micro conversion is: on a page-by-page level, what exactly do you want people to do? This actually becomes a really fun and interesting conversation when you look at a homepage, for example. A lot of times, I will pull up my clients’ home pages, and I'll say, “Okay, let's take a look at this page.” If they're selling products on the website, or if it's a SaaS company, for example, and they have a variety of products, you might say, “Well, what is it that you want people to do?”  Companies often have a really hard time answering that question. They'll say, “Well, we have 20 different types of products or services that we offer, so we want people to find the right product for them.” which is a super, super ambiguous way of saying, “I don't know what I want people to do.” It's an undefined and unspecified action. It's just, “I want them to do something and hopefully eventually purchase.” I respond to that with my clients by saying, “Well, if you don't know exactly what you want your visitors to do, they're not going to know what to do either.”

If you're giving them a Choose Your Own Adventure homepage, more often than not, people end up not converting, because there are too many choices that they're having to make all at once. So we start with, on a micro conversion level, looking at each page on the website and saying, “If you could have your visitor do one thing on this page, what's the one thing you would have them do?” That, usually, will cancel out all the noise. It's like, “Well if I have to pick one thing, I want them to go to a product page.” Okay, great. We've already gotten a lot more narrow. So, the goal of the homepage is to get people to product pages. That, maybe, is the conversion that we should track on the homepage: how many people got to product pages.

On a macro level, that's: what is the bottom-of-your-funnel goal on the website? What is the ultimate end-all-be-all goal on the website? Because, again, you might have, “People can download white papers on my website, people can watch a webinar. but really what I want them to do is fill out a demo request form, I really want them to call us, I really want them to do this.” So that's the thing that, when I'm working with my clients, that is the ultimate metric that we are working towards improving. What is that bottom-of-the-funnel goal? Product purchase, demo request, phone call, whatever it is. Those are the typical bottom-of-the-funnel conversions that we're looking at.

David Bain  06:57

I think it's slightly easier, or potentially slightly easier, for businesses with shorter sales cycles. What about if you've got a fairly lengthy sales cycle? Maybe over six months or so. What path, would you say, is typically the best path to set up in order to actually retain someone's interest?

Do you, for instance, suggest trying to get that opt-in to begin with, either to watch your webinar, download a white paper, continue the relationship via email, build the relationship, build your perceived authority using a podcast or using blog content and then let the customer actually reel themselves in to make the sale? Or is there a better approach for a longer sales cycle?

Chris Dayley  07:40

I wouldn't say that there's a better approach. I would say that, what you want to do is you want to have multiple paths, kind of like if you are skiing down a mountain. You might want to take the direct path down the mountain, or you might kind of want to meander your way down.

What you want to do is you want to have, obviously, your bottom-of-the-funnel metric, your bottom-of-the-funnel conversion, you always want your customer, your potential customer, to have the ability to take that action. Because you don't know when a customer exactly is going to be ready to convert. They may already have researched your company, they may already be a lot farther down the path than you think. I've seen this a lot with some of my clients where all they're trying to do is send people to download white papers. And then we'll run an A/B test and we'll say, “Okay, hey, we have this version of a landing page where all we have is a white paper download CTA, and then we run a test where we have the white paper download and a demo request form on the page, and we actually end up getting a significant number of demo requests.” By which, we find out, “Hey, there's actually a lot of our visitors that are a lot farther down the funnel than we thought. They're more willing to convert than we might have thought.”

Now that doesn't answer the second part of your question, which is: okay, but just because we get a demo request that doesn't mean that the sale is going to come through right away. If it's a six-month sales cycle, we might have to talk to them for a while and, in the meantime, we want to nurture that lead. So there are a lot of different things that we are going to want to do there. What I typically recommend - to kind of get down to the question of “How do you optimize your website?” because you can really complicate your website a lot by saying, “Oh, we have a six-month sales cycle, and we don't know exactly what the quality of our leads are going to be, and so we don't actually track our conversion rates. We just track whether or not they took an action on the website or whatever.” And that's a mistake, I believe. I think that you need to optimize for that bottom-of-the-funnel conversion, recognizing that it might take a while to close those leads.

Then what you can do is track on the backend, and this is what I'll do a lot of times when we'll run A/B tests. We'll say, “Let's just pass some invisible form field through.” and we'll say, “On this version of the lead, we just sent them to a white paper, on this version of the lead we sent them straight to the demo. And let's see, on the backend, how do those play out? Which one ends up generating more sales?” That's how you track the longer-term quality and the path that those go down.

But you don't want to wait for six months to make decisions, right? It's not like I run a test for six months and see how that plays out over the sales cycle and then make a decision. I always make decisions based on, what is the conversion rate? How did we improve the conversion rate? Let's assume that, if we improve the conversion rate, that will also lead to better down-the-funnel metrics. Then we can come back and circle back around, If we find out later that we didn't write.

David Bain  10:39

I can certainly understand website conversion rate focus being part of a new site design, but is a focus on incorporation of website conversion rates something that needs to be part of every marketing strategy or something that's ongoing as every single marketing decision that's made?

Chris Dayley  10:59

Yeah. That's actually a bigger question, which is: why do companies do website redesigns? Every company I talk to is at some stage of website redesign. They're either talking about a website redesign, they're in the middle of a website redesign, they just launched a website redesign - there's always some kind of redesign that's in the strategy. I break it down into a few reasons why businesses will redesign.

One is a rebrand. If you've rebranded your company, you have a new logo, maybe you have new products, so you need to redesign your website because your business has changed fundamentally in some way. That's an obvious, and sort of a no-brainer, reason to redesign the website - but that's a very small percentage of website redesigns. Most of the redesigns that I encounter are, you either get a new creative director that comes in or a new CMO that comes in and says, “We need to change the way that we portray ourselves.” or “We need to look more like a premium brand.” or “We need to connect more with our customers.”, “We need to have a more image-centric website.” or, what I hear a lot is companies that will say, “I want a site that looks like Apple, or a site that looks like Instagram” or whatever it is.

I call that gut-based redesign. There's not really any fundamental necessity for a redesign, there's just some underlying belief that you know what your customers want. That kind of redesign, I think, should be taken out behind the barn and shot. I don't think that companies should ever do that.

David Bain  12:40

If you're a senior marketer in an organization, and you do have a new senior creative director come in and say that about your site, how do you bat against it?

Chris Dayley  12:49

What I always recommend (and this is what I will do with my clients) is to say, “Okay, maybe we do need to do a redesign, but before we do, let's first test some of the ideas that we have, and see how our customers respond.” My brother actually worked for me for a while, and he does website A/B testing as well now, and he works in-house for a company that's here in Utah. When he was hired, that company had just barely gotten to the end stages of a redesign. They had spent a whole year locking down the website. “Let's not make any changes, our creative teams going to be heads-down on this new site design.” So they had put tonnes of time and resources into this new site design, and it was all based on a gut idea of how the site should change and how the brand should be evolving, and whatever.

They launched that website redesign and conversion rates tanked. I don't remember exactly the percentage, but it's like a 20% decrease in conversion rates. So they immediately reverted back to their old site design. Then they go, “Well, what happened? Why did this site design fail?” Of course, the same gut instincts come back up, and they're like, “I know why it failed. It was because of this and this.” So they did another gut approach. They tinkered with and modified that new site design and relaunched it, and it failed again. Then what they did is they said, “Okay, maybe we actually don't know, what is working better. Why don't we split this new design up, and let's test? Let's take, maybe a page at a time, or let's take a change at a time, and let's run some A/B tests and let's test the old design against some of the new designs.”

What they found was, there were actually some things on the new design that performed better. Some of the changes they had made actually did convert better, but there were a few changes that they had made that were counterintuitive. They were changes that the business thought were going to be good for the customers that weren't - that the customers rebelled against and created significantly lower conversion rates. By doing the A/B test, what they were able to do is they were able to home in on, “Oh, this is the stuff our customers don't like. This is the stuff our customers do like.” Then they were able to tie all that together into a new site design that did work.

Rather than taking that approach - that was an enormous amount of time, effort, and significant financial investment because they were monopolizing their entire creative team’s time for about a year. Instead of taking that approach, where you just throw something out and hope it works, I recommend that you start at the end of that process with what my brother's company does and say, “Let's take one idea at a time and let's test that new idea against our current site and, if it works, then let's go down that path of redesign. If it doesn't work, then hey, we've saved ourselves a tonne of time and we've saved ourselves a tonne of money, effort, and brainpower. So, we're not going to go down that path. Maybe we find an alternate path that works better.”

That's usually what I recommend to my clients. When we do that, a lot of times, you actually end up gradually redesigning your site over time, by testing one thing at a time. You end up with, after the course of the year, you have a new site. But it's been redesigned in chunks one step at a time as you find data that proves your customers are going to respond well to that change.

David Bain  16:22

If you do decide to go down that route and redesign in chunks, as you say, can that not be a little bit jarring for visitors who perhaps are used to your existing brand, then for one section of your website, see quite a radically different design and just wonder if that's the same website that they're on?

Chris Dayley  16:42

That's a good question, and that comes back into the strategy piece. You have to be strategic with how you chunk out these design changes. What I usually recommend to my clients is: there are usually two pieces to a design. There is the functionality or ordering or layout of the page, and then there's the styling, right? With the redesign, a lot of times companies will do both at the same time. They change their color palette, they change their fonts on their site, they change the margins, etc. Those are style changes. Then there's the general layout. It’s like, “Hey, we're going to add a video. We're going to change the orientation of our product pages. We're going to move the call to action. We're going to add this kind of menu layout.” You might have a new style for your menu, like a new design for the menu, and then you're also gonna have a different structure for your menu.

So what I do is I separate those two things. I'll say, “Let's start with the structural piece. If we're planning on changing our menu structure, let's test the new menu structure inside of our current style.” That way, we can see how the menu structure itself performs. If the new menu structure works, then great. In our new site design, we'll use that new menu structure with our new style. But if the new menu structure doesn't work then, in the redesign, instead of changing the structure and style, you just say, “Let's apply our new style guide to the current menu structure.” What you're going to end up doing is you're going to say, “What should we actually be changing here? Should we be changing everything in this new website design? Should we just be changing the formatting of the content so that it uses our new fonts and our new color palette? Or should we be changing the structure of the page itself?”

Here's another example. I have a client right now that I'm working with, and they recently - it wasn't a full website redesign, but they had recently gotten some new product video that was done that was really nice. They had just rolled this out right before working with me. They had rolled out these new, fancy, autoplay video backgrounds, so when you first get to key landing pages on their site, there are these autoplay video backgrounds that look really great. Then they've also added these video sections on these landing pages. They rolled out this new, video-centric design on their website. I came in and said, “Okay, cool. Hey, this stuff looks great. I'm not saying that we shouldn't do this. I am saying, we rolled this stuff out without any data whatsoever proving that this worked.”

So what we did is we took that page that had a video on it, and we tested a few different versions of it. In one version, we just removed all of the video. In another version, we removed the autoplay video and had a play thumbnail on it so, instead of auto-playing, you can choose to play it. We had another version where we removed only the hero video and another where we removed the video section. We found that, actually, all of the variations that we tested that removed videos performed significantly better. We're talking 20% to 30% gains in conversion rates by removing these videos.

What we found was, “Hey, even though we like this video stuff, and even though it looks really nice, and maybe it maybe we think it conveys a premium brand - it's a major distraction to our customers.” Video, a lot of times, sucks up so much of a customer's attention. This is where we go into the psychology of it, where we go, “What's actually happening when this video plays? Why is it that this video is lowering our conversion rates?” And we can pull out some hypotheses like, the autoplay video immediately creates motion on the page, which can be disorienting to customers, so I can see why that would perform worse. Also, if you watch the video, it requires a significant amount of focus, time, and attention, and that's wearing down our customers’ attention span. Time that they could spend navigating through our site and learning about our products, they're instead spending watching our video of people in a meeting room chatting and laughing about who knows what.

That's where we would say, “Okay, hey, even if you've rolled out a redesign recently, you can always go back and challenge some of the things that you did recently.” And if you have a CMO or a director of marketing that comes in and says, “Hey, at my last company, we did a big redesign and that changed everything in our business, so we need to do another one.” You could just say, “Great, let's do a redesign. But first…”, and then you lay out a strategy to say, “Let's break this down into chunks, and let's make sure that whatever direction we're going in - if you're going to be monopolizing my time for the next year, I want to make sure that we have data proving that what we're going to be doing is working. Otherwise, we could spend a whole year on this big project, and it just falls on its face.”

David Bain  21:36

Superb. A lot of wonderful thoughts there. Well, let's move on from what works now to planning for the future. So in your opinion, what's the biggest marketing trend or challenge for marketers over the coming year?

Chris Dayley  21:47

This is gonna be the buzzword that everyone keeps hearing everywhere, which is “automation”, right? There are all sorts of automation and AI innovations that have rolled out recently. I think that the immediate reaction of most marketers is to be scared of AI and scared of automation. I know, in the past, I've felt scared. It's like, “Well, hey, if Facebook keeps improving their automatic bidding algorithms, or Google keeps improving their automatic bidding algorithms, eventually, you won't even need a PPC Manager or Facebook manager, or whatever it is. Eventually, you won't need that.” I actually don't believe that that's the case.

I think that the marketers who are going to come out on top over the next 10 years are going to be the ones who learn how to strategically deploy AI and how to optimize it. Because you're still going to need human input no matter what, even on the A/B testing front. If, theoretically (and there's not a tool out there that does this right now) there was an A/B testing tool that would say, “We're going to automatically test everything on your site for you and we're going to optimize things.” it's going to require strategic human input.

So, just like when online ads came along, that didn't mean that people who did newspaper ads before suddenly became irrelevant. It's just, “I need to repurpose my skill set to digital.” Now we're gonna say, “We're going to need to repurpose our skill set for automation and for AI, so that my skills now - instead of doing everything, now I'm going to learn how to strategically use artificial intelligence, how to use different automation algorithms, or whatever it is. I'm going to learn how to use those to make everything I do better.”

So that's what I'm working towards. In my company, we're actually working on figuring out how we can use AI to build better and smarter tests in the future. It's not that building that tool is going to replace me, it's that building that tool is going to make me better. And probably it's going to change how I use my time. Maybe I won't spend so much of my time on monotonous tasks - and that's great, because hopefully it will free up brain space for me to focus on other things that are more important. I think anybody who can learn how to use those tools and get on board as early as possible is going to be set up for success in the future.

David Bain  24:10

I’ve been your host, David Bain. You can find Chris Dayley over at smart-cro.com. Chris, thanks so much for being on the Strategic Marketing Show.

Chris Dayley  22:19

Thanks for having me.

David Bain  24:21

And thank you for listening. Here at IFP, our goal is simple: to connect you with the most relevant information, to help solve your business problems, all in one place. InsightsForProfessionals.com.

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