Reed's Conversion Rate Optimisation Book

The CRO Handbook

The right way to convert users online with persuasive techniques.

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This is a complete guide to conversion rate optimisation (CRO). This used to be in an email format where I'd go through and help you, but I've made it an extensive guide to teach you everything I know.

In my guide you’ll learn:

The TLDR; If you want to get more leads, sales, and signups, you’ll love this FREE CRO Guide.

Part 1: CRO Basics

In this part I’ll cover conversion rate optimisation fundamentals.

(Including what it is and why it’s important)

So if you’re just getting started with CRO, this part is for you.

Let’s jump right in.

What is Conversion Rate Optimisation?

Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) is the practice of optimising your website to maximize the number of people that take a desired action, such as signing up for a newsletter or making a purchase.

As you might expect, a "conversion" is the specific action that you want visitors to take.

Do you run an Ecommerce site? Then a "conversion" is buying one of your products.

Are you a blogger? Then a "conversion" is signing up for your email newsletter.

Are you a SaaS founder? Then a "conversion" is signing up for a free trial.

What is Conversion Rate?

Your conversion rate is the percentage of people that visit a page and take a desired action that leads to an outcome.

You can calculate your conversion rate by dividing number that actually convert by the number of people that visit a page.

For example, let’s say that you run a software product that helps people stick to their diet.

And 100 people visit your homepage every month.

If 10 of those people sign up for a free trial, that page’s conversion rate is 10%.

Why is Conversion Rate Optimisation Important?

You might have heard the phrase: "It’s easier to double your conversions than double your traffic".

And it’s 100% true.

A simple tweak on a landing page can double or even 10x that page’s conversion rate.

That’s why the ROI of conversion rate optimisation is off the charts.

I’m not going to bore you with a bunch of stats. I just want to highlight a few industry studies that prove CRO is worth the investment.

68.5% of companies in one survey said that they plan to make CRO a "higher" priority than last year.

And it’s no secret why: only 22% of businesses are happy with their site’s conversion rate.

When businesses DO decide to invest in CRO, it usually pays off. Venture Beat reports that the average ROI from a CRO tool is 223%.

Why Conversion Rate Shouldn’t Be Your #1 Goal

I should point something out:

The term "Conversion Rate Optimisation" is kind of misleading.

Yes, you want to increase your conversion rate. But it shouldn’t be your #1 goal.

Bottom line? Increasing your conversion rate is nice. But the ultimate goal of CRO is more sales or revenue. Conversion rate is the proxy that leads to the improvement.

With that, it’s time to dive into Part 2.

Part 2: How to Get Started With CRO

This part is all about the critical first step of any CRO campaign: Collecting data.

Most people skip this step. And they end up testing random stuff (like button colors). Sure, you might get a slight bump in conversions with a button color change.

But if you want to get 2-10x conversion boosts, marketing research is KEY and you require DATA for your decision-making process.

Here’s how to do great data collection for CRO.

Business Objectives and Benchmarks

Your first steps are to set up objectives or goals for your CRO campaign and figure out where you’re at.

For example, let’s say that you run an Ecommerce site.

Your goal might be to boost overall site conversion rate by 10%. Or maybe you want to focus on improving a specific product page.

Either way, it’s important to set these high-level objectives BEFORE you get into the weeds of Analytics and A/B testing.

Then you want to tie your metrics to the objective, then you want the value we should expect.

So your objective is boost conversion rate by 10%.

Your metric is conversion rate (sometimes it can be different).

The value is a 10% increase in revenue, so $1,000,000 to $1,100,000.

Once you’ve set your objectives, jot down your current conversion rate (your benchmark). That way, you can monitor whether or not your conversion rate improves and by how much.

Dig Into the Data (Usually Google Analytics)

So now you know your site’s current conversion rate. You also have a specific objective.

Great.

Now it’s time to figure out WHY pages aren’t converting as well as they should.

And the first place to look? Google Analytics. Analytics tells you exactly WHERE conversions are strongest (and weakest).

Analytics can tell you where in the process people tend to drop off. That way, you know where to start testing.

Analytics can also help you see conversion rate differences between devices, segments, landing pages and certain goals you've set up.

Find Quantitative Data

Beyond the numbers in GA, quantitative data is another goldmine that you can use to increase conversions.

First, you can fire up user session software like HotJar and Crazy Egg.

These tools show you how people interact with your pages.

Which takes a lot of the guesswork out of answering: "Why does this page convert like crap?".

Secondly, the level 10 data science move is that you could build a data lake and pour over the numbers with Anaconda and mix and match customer data to your business questions to build very robust hypothesis tests. You do need a high level of Python coding chops. Or just Google you way through, which I usually do.

I personally love this way. It gives you much clearer analysis.

Collect Qualitative Data

Quantitative data is nice and I use it a lot in my day-to-day.

But if you want to paint a full picture of why people don’t convert, you need qualitative data.

You can grab this data using:

So yeah, there are a load of different ways to collect qualitative data for CRO.

Specifically, you want to ask questions that help you figure out why people DO and DON’T convert.

Aside: Research-driven A/B Testing is the most valuable part of CRO.

Part 3: How to Run A/B Tests

In this chapter you’ll learn how to conduct A/B tests like a PRO.

So if you’ve ever asked yourself:

"How do I get started with split testing?"

"What’s the best A/B testing software?"

"How do you actually perform an A/B test?"

This chapter has you covered.

Do You Have Enough Traffic?

If your site doesn’t get much traffic, A/B testing is pretty much impossible.

Why?

Because your tests won’t reach statistical significance.

Most optimisers consider a result at 90-95% statistical significance. However I think that's a mistake and I follow 70% as per the Navy Seals. I do this because I tend to think 95% is too high of a benchmark for every business case.

Remember we're looking for success, not perfection.

Fortunatelely it's easy to find out if your site has enough traffic for A/B testing with Optimizely’s Sample Size calculator.

Just enter your page’s current conversion rate, the boost in conversion rate you want, and a statistical significance level.

And the tool will let you know how many visitors you need to hit significance with your test.

What To Split Test First

One of the biggest questions people have about split testing is:

"What do I test first?"

It’s a tough question to answer. There are lots of items to test. But I want you to get the 80/20 of Conversion Rate Optimisation.

That said, here are 3 ways to help you decide where to start with A/B testing:

High-Traffic Pages

This is simple math.

When you improve the conversion rate on a page that gets a lot of traffic, you’ll get A LOT more conversions.

Worst-Performing Pages

You can also start A/B testing on pages that have a super low conversion rate.

Why? They have nowhere to go but up.

In fact, you can sometimes see a 5-10x improvement on low-converting page with a single A/B test.

Qualitative and Quantitative Data

The data you collected in the last chapter will come in handy here.

Here’s where you let the data inform your first test.

You want to build a feedback loop. From the first test you can improve, by the fifth test you can understand your customer.

If you want to know about feedback loop, it means, the time from customer feedback to implemented improvement. So technically you can have multiple feedback loops. And I'd implore you to have more loops going early in the process to learn faster.

Create a Hypothesis

Now that you’ve decided what to start testing, it’s time to create a hypothesis test.

Why is this important?

Well, without a hypothesis, you end up testing random stuff. And that doesn't fit into our 80/20 of Conversion Rate Optimisation.

A hypothesis helps you test stuff based on logic and data and not a random gut feeling.

How to Run an A/B Test

Here are two tips to help you run split tests:

First, start testing BIG changes to build your feedback loop.

You want to start testing two VERY different versions of your pages. Then, refine the winning page with smaller changes over time.

Second, you’ll need software.

There are dozens of A/B testing tools on the market, the ones I like are:

I personally use Optimizely, but it ultimately depends on your budget and the features that matter most to you.

Collect Results and Scale

Your last step is to collect your results, analyse them, and learn.

Fortunately, most A/B testing software lets you know if your results have reached statistical significance.

Then, once you’ve found a winner, it’s time to jot a few things down. Specifically, answers to these questions:

Part 4: Conversion-Focused Design

As you probably know, site design isn’t just about looking pretty.

Instead, the goal of your site’s design is to get your visitors to convert.

And in this part you’ll learn how to maximize conversions with design.

Improve the Behaviour Flow

If you want somebody to buy, cut the BS and don't bury items under hidden menus or after About page links. Move the shop buttons high up the page or closer to the front of the navigation.

Make CTAs Look Clearly Like Buttons (Instead of Text or Images)

When it comes to CTAs, traditional-looking buttons work best. That’s because people are used to clicking on buttons.

Please just use underlines on your links. This improves engagement the easiest.

Use an "Action Color" For Your CTAs

The last thing you want is for your button to blend in with the rest of your page.

Fortunately, you can easily get around this issue. How? Make your CTA contrast with the rest of your page. And BINGO… you have a CTA that instantly stands out.

For example, in a case study published at Hubspot, Performable saw a 21% lift in conversions when they switched to a high-contrast red button.

Turn Boring Forms Into Fill In The Blanks

Let’s face it: no one likes filling out forms. That is, unless you make them fun. One company found that replacing a typical boring form with a "Mad Lib"-style form boosted form completion rate by 25%-40%.

And if your CTA looks like a text link or an image, people won’t always know that they’re looking at a call-to-action. You guessed it: that means fewer people will click.

Show a Giant Phone Number for Mobile Visitors

If you run a business where calls = leads = revenue, try turning your tiny text phone number into a large, clickable number. A prominent phone number can also boost credibility and trust.

Use a Progress Bar

Use a progress bar for multi-step funnels and form submissions. Why? A progress bar motivates people to finish what they started.

Reduce Options and Form Fills

Lots of options = anxiety.

In fact, cutting out just a single option can make a HUGE difference. Expedia boosted annual sales by $12 million dollars by removing a "Company Name" field from their signup process.

Bottom line? Destroy all unnecessary options on your site.

Persuade With Image Captions

According to Cashvertising, captions get read 2x more than non-headline copy.

Don’t waste that precious real estate with a boring description. Instead, write persuasive copy in your captions.

Part 5: How to Create High-Converting Funnels and Landing Pages

When it comes to CRO, funnels and landing pages are HUGE.

That’s because your funnels and landing page exist for one reason: to get someone to convert into a lead or sale.

So if you can increase your funnels and landing page conversion rate by 10%, that’s 10% added directly to your bottom line.

And in this part you’ll learn a handful of actionable techniques that you can use to boost your landing page conversion rate.

Declare Your Market Positioning

Owning a word in the mind for a user will dramatically change conversion rates.

If you make to-do list software and target everyone you're going to have a low conversion rate, but if you target to-do list software for sales experts for builders and only target them you will have high conversion rates because the messaging is quite contextual.

Show Social Proof of Clients or Buyers

Social proof isn’t all about having thousands of customers.

You can also use social proof in the form of quotes from experts, logos of companies you’ve worked with, and awards you’ve won.

Social proof ("Our clients include Google") can be more powerful than sheer numbers ("We’ve served 876 clients").

Use a Landing Page Formula

Most marketers will PAS (pain, agitate, solution) but I like using Sean D'Souzas 'The Brain Audit' methodology. It psychology that moves your customers through several steps in a nice order to slowly, but surely convert.

Thank You Pages

I use thank you pages to do both give Thanks for opting in. And then giving an additional offer.

Test Funnel Upsells and Cross Sells

Once you've started using Thank You pages you'll probably go funnel crazy. Start tweaking how the barrier to entry is, then see what customers will page for on the Thank You pages.

Test Negative Words In Your Headline

Outbrain discovered that negative words in headlines like "never" and "worst" outperform positive words, like "always" and "best"… by 63%.

For example, a headline like "5 worst foods for losing belly fat" will grab more attention than "5 best foods for losing belly fat".

Replace "Buy" or "Sign up" with Benefit-Oriented CTAs
The word "buy" reminds someone that they’re about to make a big commitment. Not good. So instead of "buy", use CTAs that emphasize what they’ll GET.

Unbounce uses this example: Instead of "Buy Plan", they say "Start My Free 30-Day Trial", which is much more benefit-oriented.

Use Action-Focused Copy

Copywriters have long known that this action-oriented copy is more persuasive than passive copy.

So instead of highlighting facts ("Our product helps people lose weight"), describe what will HAPPEN when someone uses your product ("Lose that stubborn belly fat").

Testimonials as Mini Case Studies

I like using a before and after type testimonial as a mini case study ("Before we used X we struggled, then we chose Y and now we're happy").

The more personalised list of testimonials contextual to the problem being solved, the better the conversion rate.

Make Your Headlines SUPER Clear

It’s a fact: vague headlines don’t sell. Instead, you want your headline to be insanely specific about what your product or service does. Yes, you may turn some people away. But your target customers will eat it up.

Instead of something lame like "The Next Generation of T-Shirts", Bonfire goes with the much more specific "The easy way to design and sell t-shirts online".

Use Inline Validation

Inline validation = awesome. Ever spend 10-minutes to fill out a form, only to see a "You need to accept the terms of service" error message?

Instead of showing people errors after they fill out and submit your form, inline validation gives people notes as they work.

And there’s data to back this up: several case studies found that inline validation significantly improves form completion rates.

Use No-Nonsense Headlines

The purpose of your headline isn’t to straight up sell. Instead, the #1 goal of your headline is to show people the benefit of using your product.

That’s why you want to use copy that highlights the #1 benefit people will get from your product or service.

Use Likes, Users, Followers or Customers as Social Proof

Whether we admit to it or not, social proof has a strong influence on what we do. In the world of CRO, you can use social proof in the form of Facebook likes, customers, total users, number of downloads or anything else that shows off social proof.

Like anything in CRO, social proof doesn’t work 100% of the time. So if you already have social proof on your landing pages, you might want test removing social proof from your landing pages (or try a different form of social proof).

Replace Jargon With Plain English

Your visitor shouldn’t need a PhD to understand your copy.

The fact is, jargon like this does NOT work: "We are an enterprise software company that focuses on providing customers with revenue-driven solutions throughout the sales cycle." Huh?

Instead, use copy anyone can understand: "We’re a CRM that helps you get more sales."

Make Your Text Sing

Your text should be scannable and not intimidating to read.

People want to read short sharp pieces on the internet and usually not a large book.

Make it short and to the point and visually attractive to entice the person to jump in. Change sentence length to mix things up to change the way the user reads the text.

Show Your Price on Landing Pages

If your price is lower than average, don’t hide your price. Why?

Well, when you hide your product’s price, people think: "Where’s the price? This thing must be crazy expensive."

In fact, Market Dialer found that including a price of "$75 per seat" doubled conversions.

Fire Tip: For price buyers always use price. For value buyers always sell on hopes, dreams and fear.

Part 6: CRO for Ecommerce Sites

If you run an Ecommerce site, you already know that you can draw a straight line between conversions and revenue.

The question is: How do you optimise your ecommerce site for conversions?

That’s exactly what this part is all about.

It’s a collection of CRO techniques specifically designed to turn ecommerce site browsers into buyers.

Build Out Clear Categories

Making clear categories and shaping the User Experience around them is how you win in multi-category brands. If a user is aware of their solution, they will drilldown and check out faster through well-defined categories.

Use Price Anchoring

Want to make your products seem dirt cheap without slashing prices? Try price anchoring.

Here’s how it works: When you show someone a certain price, they’re "anchored" to that price for a short time.

(That’s why infomercials show a bunch of higher prices before revealing the actual price).

Add "Reassurance Copy" to Product and Checkout Pages

Reassurance Copy are little snippets of copy around your CTAs that make your customer feel more comfortable about their decision.

This can be free shipping, a money back guarantee, your privacy policy, social proof, or a key benefit.

Booking.com is the king of Reassurance Copy. They sprinkle them EVERYWHERE. I count five of them just in the above the fold area of this hotel listing page:

Show Multiple High-Quality Product Images

You probably already know that product images can make or break your product page conversion rate.

So before you throw up a single hero shot, consider featuring 5-10 images of your product.

You can show images of the product from different angles.

You can also show your product in action.

Clearly Mark Your Top Sellers

Marking a product as a "Top Seller" or "Popular" s a VERY strong form of social proof.

Want to take this to the next level? Personalise your best seller list by customer segments or purchase history.

For example, Booking.com notes that certain rooms are ideal for certain types of travelers.

Site search can make a HUGE difference in Ecommerce conversions. Why? Because you’re showing people exactly what they want to find!

Pro Tip: Google Analytics has a site search natively so check that often. Then, make those sought-after products easier to find.

Feature High-Revenue Products Above The Fold

If you want an easy way to increase conversions, feature your most profitable products front and center in the above the fold area of your site. This rule applies to your homepage as well as product and category pages.

Collect Emails and Nurture

Yes, you want that visitor to buy right away.

But unless you’re Amazon, that’s probably not going to happen. So instead of trying to close right away, consider a popup that offers something for free (like a free educational course, checklists or listicles).

Then, drip your new lead valuable content and discounts (or bundles). When they are ready to buy, you’ll be top of mind.

Add Product Filters

If you have a category page with 1001 products on it, add a product filter. That way, people can easily see items that fit their style, size and budget.

Kilt ecommerce site Kilt Society saw a massive 76% increase in revenue when they added a simple product filter to their category pages:

That means 76% more men wearing kilts. That’s a good thing, right?

Let Customers Checkout as a Guest

Yes, capturing emails is wonderful. But if you force would-be buyers to "register for an account", you might be losing out on some serious revenue.

Yes, Amazon and other giants can get away with it…

…but if you run a mom and pop Ecommerce site, let users buy without creating an account. In fact, 26% of people say they won’t complete a purchase if they’re forced to register for an account.

Use Discount or Bundle Popups

Consider offering your visitors a coupon in exchange for their email address.

The best way to do that? An exit intent popup.

I actually don't love discounting so I prefer to bundle in extras or (by product, think saw dust).

Use Interactive Product Images

Interactive images are as close as you can get to an in-store shopping experience on the web.

Ecommerce Partners found that an interactive zoom boosted sales at an online shoe store by 51%.

Add Trust Symbols

Several industry studies show that trust symbols (like association memberships, credit card logos and security icons) boost conversions especially at checkout. For elderly shoppers this is a must. With changes to financial products they always the sceptic.

Optimise for Mobile Buyers

If you haven’t optimised your Ecommerce site for mobile phones and tablets, something is up with your designers egos. The data is increasingly favoured towards mobile phone devices.

For example, ProFlowers increased their conversion rates by 20-30% when they made their site easier to use on mobile.

Make Product and Category Pages Load Lightning Fast

Amazon once reported that one second of load site delay can cost them over $1 billion in annual sales.

So whether you run your Ecommerce site on Shopify or BigCommerce, it’s important that your pages load pretty much instantly. If you’re ready to get started.

Hide Your Coupon Field

When you see a coupon field on a checkout page, what do you do? You go to Google and search for coupon codes!

And you might never end up going back to that checkout page. So removing (or hiding) the coupon field can really help with shopping cart abandonment.

Show Why You’re Better

You don’t always need to woo potential customers with fancy copy.

Instead, directly compare your product with the competition. That way, people can quickly see why they should choose you over the rest.

For example I designed a homepage for Petzyo that had a section that compared them to other dog food brands. They almost 3x'd their revenue that year with the landing page (and other factors I worked on).

Test Different Prices to Maximise Revenue

You can split test headlines and button colors till you’re blue in the face. And hey, you’ll sometimes see a lift on conversions.

But you can sometimes get a HUGE conversion boost by lowering or raising your prices.

Obviously, a lower price can boost conversion rate but hurt profits. And a higher price can hurt your conversion rate and increase profits.

On the same Petzyo project, I tested the product page objections to find out what type of brand they were (price buyers or value buyers). Then the next test was to see how much they could improve price. Once revealing they were price buyers, we pushed how high the price could go before push back.

Keep the Number of Items In Your Cart Visible

People on a shopping spree can lose track of what they put into their cart. You can easily sidestep this issue with a feature that shows people how many items they have in their shopping cart.

Part 7: How to Create Irresistible Offers

Your offer can make or break your conversion rate.

Use the wrong offer? Your visitor will say: "Nah. Maybe later".

Here are simple (yet effective) strategies you can use to craft powerful offers so good people will have a hard time saying no.

Add Urgency to Your Offer

Want an easy way to get more visitors to whip out their wallets? Add urgency to your offer.

Pro Tip: Use numbers to spark urgency. For example: "Order in the next 2 hours for delivery today".

Add Scarcity to Your Offer

Want an easy way to get more visitors to whip out their wallets? Add scarcity to your offer.

Pro Tip: Use numbers to spark urgency. For example: "Only 7 left" works better than "Supplies are limited".

Guarantee Your Offer

You want to add big gaurantees to your offers. Guarantees can be the most creative part of your offer. If someone doesn't get what they want, they've still participate in your offer. Having a demo of a product or having a demo of a product with $100 "waste your time guarantee"...Which one would you choose? Easy right?

Tap Into Loss Aversion in Headlines

"Loss aversion" is a powerful psychological motivator. Research shows that people are MUCH more motivated to avoid a loss than to gain something new.

For example: "Stop losing customers" is more convincing than "Get more customers".

Add Countdown Timers to Time-Sensitive Offers

A countdown timer is one of the best ways to dial up scarcity for time-sensitive products.

Marcus Taylor at CXL saw a 332% increase in conversions by adding a countdown timer to one of his landing pages.

Test First and Second Person Copy In Your CTAs

Several CRO case studies show that first person CTAs ("I want to try it!") works well.

However, some people have seen a higher conversion rate with the second person ("Get your FREE quote"). Try both.

Bonus Part: Advanced Tips and CRO Best Practices

Now that we’ve covered the basics, it’s time to go advanced.

In this part you’ll see advanced tips and CRO best practices that you can use to get more conversions… FAST.

Let’s say you have a funnel with 7 steps. How do you know which step to optimise first?

Well, most people focus on the beginning (landing page) or the end (checkout page). And it’s a rookie mistake.

Instead, focus on fixing the bottlenecks. First, outline each step of your funnel. Then use Analytics to measure the conversion rate at each step. Finally, zero-in on the worst performing steps first. These are steps where people "fall off" your funnel and have the highest upside.

Lower the Barrier to Entry

Lowering the Barrier to Entry or "Micro-commitments" let a visitor "date" you before getting married.

In the world of conversion rate optimisation, micro-commitments can be used in two ways:

First, you can include tiny commitments at the top of your sales funnel. For example, you can offer a free trial or a monthly membership instead of making people commit to a pricey annual plan.

Second, you can emphasise smaller commitments in your sales copy. For example, a call to action like "See a sample" sounds like less of a commitment than "Get a free quote"… even though they’re basically the same thing.

Other Lower Barriers to Entry

Directly Busting Objections

Don’t be afraid to feature customers objections on your landing pages and directly counter them.

Common Objections include:

Give People More Information

Squeeze pages don’t need a ton of info. A short description of the free ebook usually does the trick.

On the other hand, sales pages for complex and costly products need LOTS of info.

You’ve probably seen insanely long sales pages for online courses. Why are they so long? Because people need a lot of convincing to invest in an online course.

So if you have an expensive product, don’t be shy about providing people with A lot of information.

Make Your "About Us" Page More Human

If your site is like most websites out there, your About Page is one of your top 5 most-visited pages.

So don’t waste the opportunity to show people that your company is made up of living, breathing human beings.

Instead of stiff headshots, Wistia lets their employees show off some personality.

Use Specific Stats and Numbers

Looking to add credibility to your copy? Sprinkle in stats and figures. For example, "works 42% better than the competition".

Use Customer Support Problems to Enhance Copy

Keep a Voice of Customer document in Google Sheets. This will build your copy for your landing pages. We want our landing pages to have a big pain point at the start to build a story around before our offer.

Defensive Design

I've found that the best customers have come from an initial problem in a business that has been fixed for them.

I told Petzyo to have a purposely mispelled email in the onboarding sequence so it sparks a conversation. They get a heap of replies saying "did your intern write this one?" and then they say "oh damn, we'll fix that for you".

The customer walks away with a win and Petzyo doesn't need to fix it because they will have another random customer say the same thing tomorrow.

Autofill Fields at Checkout

It’s no secret that more fields = fewer conversions. But what if you absolutely need a ton of fields? Try autofill fields.

For example, automatically pull in a user’s city and country info from their zip code. This means less typing, which can increase your conversion rate significantly (especially on mobile).

Encourage Customers to Share Their Purchase aka User-Generated Content

Encourage users to share what they just bought on Facebook and Instagram. This is called "User-Generated Content".

This will not only bring you some referral sales ("Those sneakers look awesome. I want ‘em too!"), but this can also increase your brand awareness.