In Search [Episode 36]: What's Stopping Your Site from Converting?
July 23, 2019 |
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The In Search SEO Podcast Community Question of the Week!
With quantitative data being available in abundance, how do you get a real sense of what's helping or hindering your conversions qualitatively?!
Summary of Episode 36: The In Search SEO Podcast
This week we speak to CRO specialist and table tennis champ Dave Hyman all about:
- Which traffic sources convert at the highest rates?
- Site speed, UI, UX… which technical elements can kill your conversions if not optimized correctly?
- What tests to run and how to create surveys to ensure your conversion program is on the right track
Plus, we take a look at PageRank and links and why Google wants to move away from both.
Why Google Can’t Run From Links Fast Enough! [00:02:36 - 00:15:15]
Big news… huge… earth-shattering news... So big that Mordy wants to double down on an idea he’s had for a long time.
A former Google engineer said that Google doesn’t use PageRank anymore
Collective freakout begins... now.
Wait a moment, but Google has been saying that PageRank is still alive and well. How could that be? Hmmm...
So this engineer then clarified things a bit and said that Google did kill PageRank but replaced it with something similar.
Mordy was speaking at an SEO event recently and Eli Schwartz mentioned that he loves testing out Google’s self-driving cars (he lives in the Bay Area) by jumping in front of them to see if they stop… Now check this… he said that the cars can tell the difference between when a squirrel or a person steps in front of the car.
His point was, if Google can build a self-driving car that knows the difference between a squirrel and a person do you really think Google still relies on basic structural elements or basic on-page factors to such extreme lengths?
So whether or not PageRank does or does not live, is that really what you should be focused on when trying to consider how to get yourself ranking?
We’re in the era of AI, machine learning, and entity understanding and for some reason we still believe Google’s use of PageRank, or something like it, is of extreme relevance.
Here’s where Mordy is doubling down. According to Mordy, Google is running away from things like PageRank as fast as it can. First off, Google’s ability to look at a link has obviously evolved over the past 20 years. We may not know exactly how it all works, but we can be certain it doesn’t work as it did 20 years ago.
But even with these evolved methods, this is not where Google wants to be and this what Mordy is putting his money on… Links will not be nearly as important as they are today in 5 to 10 years.
Don’t get us wrong as links are important today, but links, the holy grail of SEO, are an indirect ranking signal. They only point to a page’s quality. They don’t say if the page is solid intrinsically.
Everything Google is doing now is about building a conceptual, qualitative, and intrinsic understanding of content, sites, and pages so that it doesn’t have to rely on indirect signals... like links.
Again, links are very important in 2019. Mordy just wishes that we would get less excited about the notion that PageRank still lives and more excited at what’s happening around us.
AI and machine learning, i.e., intrinsic understanding of content, is the new PageRank. In other words, PageRank at the time of its release was super novel, no one was doing it. Now everyone is doing pretty much the same thing and Google needs to change the rules of the game to win again.
Google knows it’s time for a reset so that it can maintain dominance and with Bing being very good with their AI and machine learning… the race is on!
What's Holding Your Conversions Back & How Can You Make a Diagnosis?: A Conversation with Dave Hyman
[This is a general summary of the interview and not a word for word transcript. You can listen to the podcast for the full interview.]
Welcome to the In Search SEO Podcast’s interview series. Today we go into the wide world of CRO, Conversion Rate Optimization, with table tennis Champ Dave Hyman
of the Clearwater Agency
out of Australia!
Hi, Mordy, thanks for having me.
I have to ask about the table tennis thing.
You know, when you do your LinkedIn profile you got to stand out and I have been known as a table tennis champion in the office.
So let’s get started. Just in case some folk out there do not know what is CRO and how does it differ from SEO?
So SEO is the process of getting organic traffic from search engines such as Google. The way CRO differentiates is it’s more about the process of increasing the number of website visitors who complete a desired goal or action. So for an e-commerce website, for example, it would be making a purchase. On a lead generation website, it would be filling out an inquiry form, making a phone call, signing up to a newsletter, or something else along those lines.
A conversion is the desired action, or the goal as we call it for data analysis, and the conversion rate is the rate which your traffic converts those goals. In essence, SEO increases the traffic to your website and CRO increases the rate at which you convert them.
Great, with that out of the way, let's talk about conversion rates. What does a good conversion rate look like and how do you set up that baseline since that rate can vary from industry to industry?
Yeah, this is a contentious one as there are so many data sources reporting on so many different conversion rates. For the data I see, e-commerce sites globally average about 2.3% in conversions and lead generation websites average anywhere from 3.5 to 4.5%.
And you’re right, there are so many different industries and so many different people to convert in so many unique ways that it’s impossible to have that average rate. It’s just a guideline for us to look at. So when we try to get our heads around conversion rates for a website we don’t even try to set up baselines because every single website is so niche, so customizable, and so different from one another that we just want to see what their baseline is at the moment with what their conversions are and can we improve that. And every single website can be improved even if it’s a slight improvement on one page that can affect the entire conversion rate.
So these numbers are rough guidelines but we’ve seen websites converting at 20% or 0.05%. It just depends on what they’re up to at the moment and we try to improve from there.
Right, you can have e-commerce sites in different competitive landscapes and I’m sure that impacts your conversion rates.
You’re right and I’ll give you an example. People in the real estate industry for lead generation websites tend to have really high conversion rates because it’s something people need to do and need to inquire into. It’s one of those experiences where you can get a little information online but you really need to talk to a realtor, to speak with someone with expertise. And this is opposed to e-commerce sites where it’s a little harder to give someone your credit card. So yes, there are completely different industries out there that convert differently and it’s very interesting to gather that data.
I’m curious now. Is there a higher conversion rate for sites that offer higher purchases (boat, house, car, etc.)?
It’s more about the process. The data behind buying a packet of cards for $2 finds there isn’t much risk and it won’t eat out of their pocket too much so things like that convert higher. But when you’re talking about a home, car, or a really expensive watch you would think they would convert a lot worse but we had cases where they converted quite highly. First, because if it’s an inquiry website they would want to learn more information and secondly because they’ve done the research and came to the website prepared to make a big purchase, hence they convert a lot higher. Compared to someone who is looking for those cheaper items who is just scouring online for anything and just stumbled on the site.
It’s really interesting and again, there’s no given answer here as all websites convert differently. You know, there are so many types of people where some like to find deals online while others still love the feel of buying in a store and using cash. And now that everyone has a computer in their pocket every day, the increase in e-commerce conversions is slowly but surely coming along.
When it comes to traffic, are all traffic sources equal to CRO? Is there one that outperforms the rest?
So, they are definitely not equal, but in terms of which outperforms, the rest is difficult to answer. Again, and not to sound like a broken record, but it’s different for every business. I’ll give you an example, we have an audio and DJ equipment client we work for. A very sales focused industry. We only send out four emails a year for them and through those emails they convert at an average of 32% which is incredible when you consider the rest of their traffic converts at 2.5%.
The reason for this is that their audience are trained to know that these four times in the year are the site’s biggest sales. It has a weird effect on their analytics as you can imagine. It actually hurts them during the rest of the year, but because they make so much money during those four periods they don’t care. So in this case where email is outperforming their other traffic sources it doesn’t mean that emails convert higher for every single business.
When we talk about conversion rate optimization, what I believe what we truly do in our practice is business revenue optimization. I say this because CRO is very tunnel vision as we’re only looking at conversion rates. Yes, we’re looking to convert, but we’re also looking into improving abandoned cart rates, the average basket size (amount a user is spending), improving the quality of inquiries coming through. Even if the conversion rate is going up we’re not looking at it as the only metric.
Everyone has their own audiences and traffic sources. All we’re trying to do is find the best return on investment from those. So to answer your question different traffic sources do better than others. I can confirm with you that organic traffic converts a little better than a paid campaign. Referral traffic is of good quality as it hyperlinks to the exact page that they want. There are just so many external factors playing on this that it’s difficult to determine which one is the best. As a business owner, you should get a vast knowledge of all the different traffic sources to see which one works best.
Where does CRO fit at each part of the marketing funnel? What are some things that inhibit conversions at each level of the marketing funnel? Is there one point of the funnel that you would describe as being more crucial than another?
Marketing funnels are interesting too as there are many different ones. There are so many different restraints and things happening to people when trying to convert through a customer journey.
Let me give you an example. I used to run a drumstick business. I used to import American hickory from the US, send it to China, then send it around the world. The company was called Collision Drumsticks. I want to take you through the process of buying there. Let’s say you do a Google search for drumsticks and you’re ranking #1 on Google Ads. When we look at the ad copy we can ask if it’s appealing, are there spelling errors, and does it look like something that will resolve a problem? Is this meeting the expectations of the user? We had so many people come to the site looking for chicken drumsticks. That obviously affects the traffic.
When looking at the homepage, what information is above the fold? Is there a unique sales proposition or will people immediately bounce away? Is there a prominent search bar? (And I highly recommend for e-commerce sites to have a search bar. Search bars convert 4 times better than sites without one.) Is the main navigation easy to use? Can you click to the product page? Are there security badges on the website? Is there social proof or testimonials? Are there payment icons that refer to Visa, MasterCard, etc.?
All of these things here on every single stage of the website are extremely important to achieving that end goal, the conversion. So is there a point in the funnel which I think is more crucial than the other? No! I would say that every single element is holistically just as important as the other because any person can drop off at any point in the funnel or at any point in their user experience. Your job is to prevent that by any means and to try to get them all the way through to the end product and either click on the inquiry button or purchase at the end of the transaction and then your job is done. So no, I don’t think there is any part of the funnel that is more crucial. I think every part is just as important as the other.
Wow, that was prolifically actionable. That was great.
There is a lot of overlap between SEO and CRO on the On-Page level as you have the UI and UX versus technical issues such as site speed. Which is more important for conversions... better yet, where would you start?
If you asked me six months ago I would have said site speed is the most important because if it takes 30 seconds to load your page people will just leave. But what I found out is that people who want a particular product from this brand/business people will go through hell to get it.
Whereas with UX there are elements in the user experience that can make it impossible for a user to convert. I’ll give you an example. We work with a company in Australia that imports Swedish watches. We did an analysis before they came on board and we found their mobile traffic converted at 0.05%. Horrible. After digging a bit more with their team and learning more about what they do as a business we found out that nobody internally has looked at their mobile website. So we decided to look into it and found that on desktop when you went to make a purchase it triggered a lightbox window that gave you a 10% discount. That’s fine, but when you try it on mobile, the image took up the whole screen giving almost no way to exit the popup other than leaving the website completely. This is what absolutely killed their conversions.
So yes, the technical aspects of a website needs to be functional and needs to be working but from a user experience point of view, if you can’t actually move through the process to get to the conversion then it’s impossible to convert from there and this would slightly elevate the technical aspect I’d say.
Let’s talk about friction points. Before we get started can you please explain to our audience what is a friction point?
A friction point is a pain point, something that makes it difficult for a user to progress forward. It’s a point that caused a little tension and psychologically removed you from the website. You may stay away from the friction, leave the site completely, or just make it difficult for you to progress forward almost like having a sour taste in your mouth.
Thank you for the definition. With that out of the way, where do friction points fit into the picture? How do you identify them and what can do you do to address them?
Yeah, so friction points are an interesting one. They fall into what we do that’s called heuristic analysis. Heuristic analysis is an analysis that uses experience-based techniques for problem-solving. So when we look at a website we basically look out for frictions, distractions, motivations, and relevance to get a psychological understanding of what the user is experiencing or what they're trying to experience. Finding these, honestly, comes from a lot of experience at looking at thousands of website and understanding the patterns of human behavior.
Here’s a really good tip for anybody who is obsessed with their website and is trying to optimize it to make it the best. My tips is to get someone who isn’t invested in your business and this could be anyone, a friend, relative, whoever. Get them to go through a normal transaction or a normal experience on the website and let them give you some feedback. This is a good way to get some feedback from someone isn’t experienced with your website to tell you if they have any friction points, or if anything is confusing, or if they were motivated by one thing you weren’t even trying to promote. It’s probably one of those things that you need fresh eyes on it and a lot of the time the answer is right in front of you. Sometimes you’re so attached to your own website that you can’t really push past some of the bias that you’ve got towards it.
How do you qualitatively get information to help improve conversions? I’m not talking quantitative data, I know there are all sorts of tools and reports… I mean qualitatively!
Yeah, it’s actually one of my favorite parts of what we do. It’s pretty fun. You get some really cool opinions from people in surveys and testing that really helps you open up your opinions of a website. A lot of people fall into the trap of thinking that CRO is just a technical analysis and in the back end you’re looking at Google Analytics and heatmaps, but it’s vital that you get this qualitative stuff to help your conversions. At the end of the day you’ve got a real live human being looking at your website trying to make decisions so you need that human nature to it.
There are a couple of ways to do this as I’ve touched upon earlier. First is surveys, a normally reliable way to get information. There are many ways to do surveys. There are programs you can install on your website. They could be triggered at parts of the customer’s journey. You could make it on the homepage. There are apps out there that get users to opt into a phone call so a representative can call and go through some stuff. The idea of surveys is to ask how they’re feeling about the experience especially when they’re involved in it. The idea is to get as much qualitative data as you possibly can and to see if it supports the theory or hypothesis you made originally.
User testing is getting a group of people who fit the buyer persona of a business and to set some task for them to complete and to offer feedback. We personally do a lot of remote user testing. It’s really difficult to get a core group of people in a room and when you’re in person there so many factors that can poison the dart. Like when you’re sitting around a group of people and you ask them a particular question, you might have a tone that encourages them to answer one way so we try our best to prevent that kind of thing.
For example, we outsource most of our stuff to UserField or TestMate who basically find people who are relevant to the website and people that would potentially be interested in the product. We give them a list of questions and then ask for feedback. And you need to know how to ask the questions in the right way so you’re not hurting your data. My dad is a psychologist and he told me that bad data is worse than no data at all.
It’s really important when you consider what you’re asking and how you ask it. I have a few things that I do when running a CRO survey. We try to write questions that are really simple and to the point. You don't want to be too expansive because that almost alludes to a particular direction. You don’t want to take them a certain way so we’re very succinct in what we ask them. We try and use words with clear meanings. We're trying not to confuse them. We want to get the most transparent answer that we possibly can so we use words with the clearest meanings so there's no way they can get confused by that.
We limit the amount of number ranking questions like, "How did you find your experience from 1 to 5?” because they’re pretty unreliable. It’s good to throw one or two in there to see what they’re feeling, but you don’t want too many.
Don’t ask double-barreled questions like, "How easy was it to complete the transaction and did you use your coupon code?” They’re two separate questions that don’t need to be combined. Separate them so you’re getting an answer for each.
We always try to offer an opt-out to questions that don’t apply to everybody so it may be a question that they haven’t achieved or done on the website and if they are forced to answer that will flub the data so we give the option for them not to fill in like "Other” or "This does not apply.”
And finally, I will say to make recall easy. Recall, meaning, thinking back to what you’ve just done. If somebody just spent 20 minutes doing a user test and then you ask them what’s the first thing that they did, it will be really difficult for them to remember. So try and make sure that your questions don’t require too much recall.
Those are my tips. The cleaner you can get the survey data the better it is for you on the other side.
How long do you recommend a survey to be?
We try to make them as short as possible so about 5 to 10 minutes. You also have to consider that most of the time we’re paying/rewarding people for doing this and they wouldn’t want to do a survey that’s an hour long for a gift card. And a 10-minute long survey is only for something that’s super involved, really intense, with lots of products or a long process from start to finish. For me, five minutes is enough. Short and to the point.
When doing A/B testing for your survey/test, what’s important when setting up the parameters?
Okay, so just to give you an idea, all of our technical and heuristic analysis is our CRO analysis prior to doing anything which gives us insights and based on those insights we can create a hypothesis. So that’s where we are now. For those who don’t know, A/B testing is having two different versions of something being sent to the same audience and finding out which one performs better.
What you need to do is a few important things. The first is to have your goals tracking properly. If you have goals that haven’t been touched for two years or goals that are no longer relevant then all of a sudden your data will be all over the place. The other thing to look at is if your website has enough traffic to be able to A/B split test. Some people will immediately jump into doing A/B test when in truth it doesn’t apply to everybody because of something called statistical significance. You need to make sure that you have enough traffic to get results from the split test. To give an example, 5 to 10 conversion per week on a lead gen website is considered low traffic. 1000 visitors per week is low volume and 100 or less transactions per month is low volume. If you fall under any of these then you fall into a category where you can’t do proper A/B split testing. There are other methods that we can do so don’t fret. Other factors we need to take into consideration is to make sure the website is fully functional and the ability to implement all the code in the back end.
So what does one do if they don’t qualify for A/B testing?
One of the cool methods we do and what people can try themselves is to set up Google Analytics. You really need Google Analytics plus it’s so easy to set up goals and e-commerce tracking. What people don’t know is there is a tiny bar at the bottom of your traffic called "Annotate” where you can create annotations. So what you can do is change one aspect of your site on one day, write an annotation on what you changed, and then you can look at the data from 30 days after and 30 days before and you can compare that data. That’s an easy way to do simple A/B testing. You do have to make sure you weren’t hit by seasonality, a traffic spike, or any other external factors that may have affected your data. Be sensible with it, but that’s a good way to test little elements of your website to be able to understand how they are performing.
Other than the obvious, what’s important when analyzing the results of a test? How do you know what to focus or not to focus on? What to throw away and what to keep?
Obviously, you’re going to be looking at your conversion rates, but just because your conversion rates improved it doesn’t mean there aren’t so many other elements you should be looking at. Something you need to look at after doing A/B split testing is whether or not there was statistical significance. Statistical significance is the likelihood that the difference in conversion rates between given variations and the baseline is not due to random chance or a variable coming through. We try to achieve a significant level of 95% for all of our tests as it’s the rule of thumb in the industry to get between 95-100%. There are cases where 90% is okay where you’re pretty safe to say that it was a good test.
So whatever tool you’re using, be it Optimizely or converter.com they all give you a significant level at the end of their test. You can look at the data straight away and make sure that the test has been random or it’s got a high significance level for you to have achieved a proper result.
And there are many other data points you can look into. Take a look at all the little elements and see what can be changed.
Let’s talk specifics, what techniques have you seen a site take on to address their conversion rate and what were the results, both positive and negative?
We have a vintage bike company here in Australia who came to us with a conversion rate of 0.68%. We did a thorough analysis of their site and found a whole list of problems.
Here’s a quick summary of what happened. We improved the mobile UX, we increased the size of the search bar, we compressed some images and did some cache work, we removed some irrelevant plugins in the back end, we made it free shipping for all orders over $75, updated some price filtering, removed the wishlist, removed confusing content from the menu, improved the checkout page and added trust badges, and made the client responsible for live chat.
Based on all that we improved their conversion rate from 0.62% to 0.82% which doesn’t seem like a massive leap but a 32% increase in conversion rate meant a 45% increase in transactions that resulted in an additional $362,000 a year.
Wow, that’s amazing.
Yeah, it sounds like a long process and that’s the crux of it. $360k for two months of analysis and one-month implementation.
I’m curious. At this point in your career if you saw a site would you immediately pick up on certain problems?
Yeah, and it’s kind of a bug for me where even for my websites I can be so critical on myself. When I see someone’s website my mind will just keep racing.
A few quick tips I will leave you off with. One, make sure that your site’s message can be understood in the first five seconds that you come to this website. Like we had a client who did marketing and on their homepage, they didn’t mention the word marketing once.
Second and last tip is about sliding banners. Sliding banners convert horribly. You should really only have one clear call-to-action on your homepage, but to have sliding banners with multiple call-to-actions can be very confusing for the user to figure out how to progress to the next stage. Instead, I advise to use a single image, a hero banner with a really good call-to-action. Don’t use ‘Learn More.” Use something that will really invoke them to make a decision.
What are some things are are indeed a part of the CRO process that most people don’t associate as being a part of CRO? What is CRO to you?
I’ll bring it back to what I mentioned in the beginning. CRO is business revenue optimization. At the end of the day, it’s a holistic view of everything that we do. Conversions are just an assessment of how your business is perceived by the world. The amount of conversions your website gets is a representation of how well you understand your marketing audience from a larger perspective and based on that you should be able to craft that in terms of leads, targeting, and UX elements. You should be able to craft what they want to see.
Which is why audience research is so pivotal. Making sure that everything goes smoothly and that people have a systematic process through your website is what CRO truly is.
Optimize It or Disavow It
When considering CRO, if you had to choose one over the other would you choose to have a site that has a terrible load time or terrible CTAs?
Full disclosure, Mordy gave me a week to answer this and I still don’t have an answer. About load times, as I said before, if someone really wants to get to the website and they will get through to the site and there is a great call-to-action I will take that over bad call-to-actions because even if you have the speediest site in the world if you don’t have good call-to-actions they will leave as quick as they go there.
Dave, thank you so much for coming in. I loved your case studies.
Thank you for having me. And if anyone wants to reach you can add me on LinkedIn and I would love to chat.
SEO News [01:11:35 - 01:16:22]
Huge Rank Fluctuations Surge!:
A major Google algorithm update hit the SERP
on July 16th with unprecedented levels of rank fluctuations being tracked on the Rank Risk Index
by the 18th!
Local Listings Bug Resolved, Maybe:
The bug that had local listings and reviews fading into oblivion has been resolved
. At least that’s what Google said. SEOs, on the other hand, are still saying that they have not seen many of their listings reappear
. Also, the form to reinstate your listings
was down for a while as well!
That’s a Lot of Changes!:
Google says they made 3,200 changes in 2019
… that’s a lot of adjustments to the algorithm!
Shareable Search Results:
Here’s a cool one. Google was seen testing a feature that lets you share a Google result
! Mordy doesn’t get it though. If you went to the page you will just share the link, no?
SEO Fun Send-Off Question [01:16:48 - 01:20:16]
What are Google’s Superhero and Supervillain names?
Sapir chose as a superhero name, Wonder Search Engine, as an homage to her favorite superhero, Wonder Woman. Sapir then refused to give Google a supervillain name as Google is the hero we need and love.
Mordy, for supervillain name, chose The No-Click-A-Nator (referring to zero-click searches). For a superhero name, Mordy went with Captain Find It, Mordy’s take on Captain Planet.
Tune in next Tuesday for a new episode of The In Search SEO Podcast