“What’s the number one thing you wish more ecommerce entrepreneurs knew about your discipline?”
That’s the question I posed to 19 world-class conversion rate optimization (CRO) and growth experts.
From growth heavyweights like Sean Ellis and Noah Kagan to optimization legends like Joanna Wiebe and Peep Laja, the responses came flooding in.
Before you spend another dollar, another minute on traffic acquisition, hear what these experts have to say. By optimizing your site for conversions, you can increase your revenue without increasing your traffic.
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Despite popular belief, it’s never too early for optimization.
So, without further ado, this is what some of the world’s leading experts wish you knew about CRO and growth.
Processes > Tactics
CRO and growth are often thought of in terms of tactics:
Everyone’s looking for a quick and easy golden nugget they can implement for 10x growth. A button copy tweak here, a color change there.
While tactics and growth hacks might be sexier than systematic processes, experts rely on the latter.
Why? Because the world of ecommerce is highly contextual.
What works for Amazon or Best Buy might not work for you, for example. You can’t bring someone else’s solutions in and expect them to solve your store’s problems.
Instead, Peep Laja of CXL Institute urges those new to CRO to rely on systematic processes:
Peep Laja, CXL Institute
"Many people new to CRO assume it's a list of tactics or a checklist. Sure, there are best practices, but those are where you start, not where you end up.
CRO is about driving growth through research and experimentation. Those two components are the backbone of CRO. Research helps us understand our visitors and what they do (or not). Through experimentation, we get to optimal solutions for identified issues."
The process is a bit different for everyone, but it generally looks something like this:
- Conduct qualitative and quantitative research on your unique site to identify problem areas.
- Use your research to come up with test and experiment ideas.
- Prioritize those test and experiment ideas using a prioritization method like ICE or PXL.
- Begin running the highest priority test or experiment.
- Analyze the results of the test or experiment.
- Record or archive the results of the test or experiment.
- Use the insights from your most recent test or experiment to come up with smarter test and experiment ideas.
This process puts an emphasis on insights and continuous learning. It also makes your store the focus. So, you’re learning what works for your store and your audience vs. Best Buy and Best Buy’s audience, for example.
The trouble with tactics and growth hacks is that they don’t account for context. A systematic process, while perhaps not as exciting, does.
4 Core Disciplines of CRO
Optimization requires a wide variety of skills and traits from a wide variety of disciplines. Craig Sullivan wrote about the 11 traits of a successful optimizer a few years ago, which includes everything from humility to statistics.
That’s what makes CRO and growth exciting, that combination of so many different skillsets and disciplines. In this article, we’ll focus on only a few of the disciplines that make up CRO:
- User Experience (UX)
Before we dive in, there are a few ground rules to cover. First and foremost, CRO and growth have to be baked into the way you approach your business.
Sean Ellis of GrowthHackers explains:
Sean Ellis, GrowthHackers
"The one thing I wish more people knew is that the theory of CRO is relatively easy to understand, but in practice, organizational inertia prevents most companies from experimenting around the highest leverage opportunities. Without addressing organizational/team challenges most people will be disappointed with their CRO and growth results."
If optimization and growth are not a pillar of your store and of your business, you won’t see the results you are expecting. Approaching all things with an experimentation mindset is key.
In fact, that experimentation mindset should extend beyond your site itself.
Paul Rouke of PRWD explains:
Paul Rouke, PRWD
"Conversion optimisation is a gateway to bringing a company into the 21st century. The power is in the hands of the audience more than ever and companies need to adapt their way of working to take advantage of this.
Yes, CRO can help increase revenues and KPIs. It can make acquisition more cost-effective. It’s a process which can fine-tune your website. I used to call it a company’s ‘greatest growth lever’ and when I shared that message around the world, it was only focused on money. What I’ve realised is that statement still holds true, but it’s about so much more.
CRO is often the first step in introducing an experimentation and customer-centric mindset to the core of a company. It starts on the website but then it flows into the daily routines of other parts of the business. We’re working with companies now that have this experimentation mindset at product level: instead of becoming a product-led business with the hope of their audience ‘buying-in’, they roll out a product in stages with experiment parameters and have the audience’s response feed into the next steps of the roadmap.
This means that growth through CRO isn’t just about making money, it’s about opening up a constructive and fruitful dialogue with your target audience. It’s about becoming customer-centric. It’s about business optimisation.
A tool we recommend to companies is the www.CROmaturityaudit.com. We’ve found that companies who focus on improving their scores across the four pillars in this audit are growing at a greater rate than their competitors."
The four pillars of the audit that Paul references are:
- Strategy + Culture: Your business’s approach to optimization.
- Tools + Technology: The tools used in the optimization process.
- People + Skills: The skills you develop to drive the optimization process.
- Process + Methodology: The optimization process itself.
Note that all four pillars can extend beyond your online store and impact multiple aspects of your business, like product or even customer service.
Another important point to make is that it’s always a good time to be focused on optimization and growth. Many people believe that they must first focus on increasing traffic, that CRO comes after traffic growth.
Josh Garofalo of Sway Copy explains why you should consider putting CRO before traffic growth:
Josh Garofalo, Sway Copy
"Too many businesses spend too much money trying to fill their leaky bucket.
Right now, they get sales because they're driving traffic to their online store. So, the best path to more sales must be more traffic, right?
Maybe, but not always. If there are holes deeper in your funnel, it will pay to fix those first, and then drive a bunch of traffic into your funnel (or do both simultaneously).
For example, do you treat your transactional emails as an afterthought, or do you put a little love into them because you know customers are going to open them? Are your emails sent according to some schedule you made up, or do you use tools like Customer.io to send emails triggered by what each customer does (or doesn't do) in your store? Are you obsessing over your homepage and ad copy, or are you optimizing the copy closer to the purchase? Is your checkout process difficult, or have you made buying as easy as possible?
By tidying up the pages and flows closer to the transaction, you can get more sales with the same traffic, and waaay more sales when you open the traffic floodgates."
It’s true that you need a certain amount of traffic to run proper tests, yes. (We’ll get to that in-depth below.) But there is much more to optimization and growth than testing.
Sending more and more people to a site that is “leaking” potential customers is a temporary solution, a bandaid.
With CRO, you can actually increase your store’s revenue without increasing your traffic. Afterwards, when you do decide to focus on increasing traffic, the visitors you acquire will be more valuable because fewer of them will be “leaking out”. If you’re paying for ads, this is even better news.
Copywriting is the art and science of crafting words that persuade and sell.
Joanna Wiebe, Copy Hackers and Airstory
"That it's as data driven as every other CRO discipline. Conversion copywriters ask questions of the analytics team, review raw data from the research team, contribute to wireframing discussions with the UX team and work through hypotheses with the lead CRO.
Conversion copywriters don't stare into space, dreaming up fluffy language; they identify sticky copy in voice-of-customer data and strategically organize that copy on the page, in emails and throughout the funnel. They hungrily consume A/B test results, and they're curious about what drives people to behave the way they do. There's more of a science than an art to the work we do."
Josh agrees, adding that there’s a lot more to copywriting than, well, writing:
Josh Garofalo, Sway Copy
"The word ‘copywriter’ is loaded with meaning for other copywriters and those experienced in hiring good ones. For everyone else, it misrepresents what we actually do.
Here's what I mean...
You would be forgiven for thinking that copywriters spend most of their time writing copy. The word suggests that's all we do, and the plethora of inexpensive copywriters with quick turnarounds times reaffirm this myth.
But any copywriter worth their weight in Bitcoin gets excited when it's finally time to write because it means their job is almost done. That's right, there is so much work that needs to be done before you get your copy.
Because your product is one of many solutions to a problem — so you need to position yourself in such a way that you stand out to a certain customer. Your product is bought by real people who think, feel, and speak a certain way — you need to write in a way that resonates with this audience. You have made attempts to sell to this audience before — you need to understand what did and didn't work and why. There are a number of research questions that need to be answered before copy that actually sells can be written.
It's true that it doesn't take long to fill your page with words, but a lot goes into filling it with the right ones."
So while copywriting might seem like an exercise in creative writing, it’s much more data-informed and scientific than that. As Joanna and Josh alluded to, there’s a lot of research and data exploration required to write convincing copy.
Joel Klettke of Case Study Buddy agrees the copywriting research process is vital, especially for capturing the voice of your customer:
Joel Klettke, Case Study Buddy
"I wish more people understood that you cannot do effective conversion copywriting if you do not conduct thorough primary research on both voice of customer and existing customer behavior onsite. If ANYONE claiming to offer conversion copy services doesn't send you a proposal with a detailed research plan, then they're not doing conversion copy - they're doing guesswork.
I also wish more people understood that conversion copywriting does not solely deal with the words, but is deeply intertwined with UX and how those words are displayed. You MUST connect your conversion copywriting with your UX/design work. Otherwise, the siloed disciplines will pull in different directions."
We’ve written an entire article on the ecommerce copywriting research process, but here’s the synopsis:
- Define your audience and segments. Define your goal and a list of questions you want answered.
- Conduct qualitative research. That means internal interviews, customer interviews, surveys, etc.
- Identify and document patterns in the research. What words and phrases are standing out? What objections, products, benefits and questions keep coming up?
- Define the messaging hierarchy and wireframe. What’s the most important messaging based on your research? Use that to create a wireframe, which clearly lays out your copy.
This is a time-consuming process, but the words on your site are one of your biggest selling tools, so investing your time here will pay off.
Plus, the customer insights from this research process will carry over to other areas of your business. For example, you can use the questions that come up over and over again to improve your FAQ page or your live chat autoresponders.
Research also helps define context. What are your visitors expecting from your copy at various stages of the lifecycle?
Jen Havice of Make Mention Media elaborates:
Jen Havice, Make Mention Media
"What most people don't think about when it comes to their marketing copy is context. How does this piece of email or website copy fit into the larger customer journey? Does the copy meet the person's expectations and help them along to achieving their goals?
Without taking into consideration questions like these, oftentimes businesses don't see positive results. And then get frustrated. So doing your customer research is the first critical step before putting any words on the page. This includes things like interviews, surveys, user testing, and heat maps.
I always tell people to think in terms of optimizing the entire funnel or journey from beginning to end. This goes for the copy as well. Knowing what your prospects and customers need to see where and when is more than half the battle."
You can use your research to understand the customer journey and optimize it from beginning to end. Why does that matter? Your copy needs to serve and persuade a wide range of visitors at a wide range of stages.
For example, you might be familiar with the five stages of awareness:
- More Aware: She knows you and your product, she just needs to know the specifics.
- Product-Aware: She knows what you sell, but isn’t sure if it’s the right choice for her.
- Solution-Aware: She knows the result she wants, but doesn’t know your product provides it.
- Problem-Aware: She knows she has a problem, but doesn’t know there’s a solution.
- Unaware: She doesn’t know the problem, the solution or your product.
At any given time, your store’s copy could be trying to capture the attention of and persuade people from each of the five stages.
There are also different levels of motivation and intent. There could be someone who is feeling the problem intensely, someone who is feeling it passively. There could be someone who is ready to buy, someone who is just starting to research products.
Understanding contexts puts you in a better position to write copy.
For example, in the right context, humor can be a good persuasion tool. Lianna Patch of Punchline Conversion Copywriting argues that boring copy kills sales (and customer relationships):
Lianna Patch, Punchline Conversion Copywriting
"Since I'm sure other folks will mention the importance of conducting qualitative customer research--which is the foundation of conversion copywriting--I'll take a sec to stand up for humor. I wish more folks knew that humor can be used as a strategic tool to build relationships, trust, loyalty, and goodwill with customers.
And while many people DO know this, a lot say, ‘Oh, it's just not for my store.’ But humor isn't one-size-fits-all! There IS a sense of humor that will fit your brand perfectly (unless you sell coffins, probably), and when you make a joke at the right time, it can push your nurturing campaigns further than they would go on their own."
Think about it this way. Would you rather talk to the in-store salesperson who has personality and makes you laugh, or the here’s-what-you-need-to-know-now-get-out salesperson?
My go-to example for funny ecommerce copywriting is Chubbies:
But there are plenty of stores that work subtle humor into their copy, like Moosejaw:
There’s nothing wrong with that just-the-facts salesperson, but no one is going to come back to the store because of his glowing practicality and logic. Inserting humor, even sparingly, will help you build a relationship with visitors and customers.
When you think of CRO and growth, your mind probably naturally drifts to testing, statistics and analytics. You know, the quantitative aspects. But as we discovered while looking at copywriting, the qualitative matters, too.
Brian Balfour of Reforge.com explains:
Brian Balfour, Reforge.com
"I think most people understand you need to be quantitative, but in the process, I think we lose sight of the psychology of our visitors. Why would they do a certain action? What motivates them? How do we reward them? Then, how do we bring those answers to life in our product, landing pages, emails, ads, etc.? Blending this skill with the quantitative side is really rare, but powerful."
This is an example of where all of that copywriting research comes in handy. Understanding who your customers are, why they act (or not), what motivates them, etc. puts you in a powerful position across the board. You’ll be able to make smarter decisions about inventory, shipping, pricing, promotion—you name it.
As Talia Wolf of GetUplift.co explains, that all starts with really, truly understanding your customer:
Talia Wolf, GetUplift.co
"The one thing I wish marketers would understand is that it’s not about the numbers or the certain discipline you choose.
You can have all the data in the world, all the new tools, processes and frameworks but at the end of the day if you don’t understand your customer, get into her head and create the experience she wants, you’ll never get the results you want.
It’s about adjusting to what your customer needs. The only way to truly grow your conversions and business is to be customer-centric."
Once you understand how your visitors and customers tick, you can consider other elements of psychology, like:
- Cognitive Biases: Dozens of biases influence every decision your visitors and customers make. You can use these biases to persuade more effectively.
- Emotional Persuasion: The human brain is incredibly emotional. Appealing to emotion instead of exclusively logic can be effective.
- Persuasion (General): Understanding how the brain works, how it makes decisions, how it compares options, etc. can put you in a powerful sales position.
You see, it’s not just about understanding how your visitors and customers think. It’s also about pairing that knowledge with an understanding of persuasion to convince them to take the actions you want.
CRO, at its core, is the practice of persuading visitors to change their behavior in your favor. Andre Morys of Web Arts explains:
Andre Morys, Web Arts
"I wish more people would deeply understand that CRO is not about tweaking websites, but about changing behavior. Usually I take a look in the optimization backlog of new clients as one of the first things, and they are full of pseudo hypotheses that won’t lead to any effect.
‘When we change the button to the left, people will buy more’ - that is not a hypothesis, that is a dream. A good hypothesis explains why the change of an element will influence the customer behavior."
Use your understanding of your customers and human psychology to design tests that aim to alter behavior.
So, for example, changing the button color from blue to green is much less meaningful than removing a secondary call to action to refocus the distracted visitor on the more valuable “Add to Cart” button.
Psychology, much like copywriting, is often considered a creative exercise by those who are new to CRO. To the contrary, it’s as data-informed as any other discipline and can directly impact your bottom line.
Before you dive into testing, Tiffany daSilva of FlowJo recommends putting in the effort to establish a solid marketing foundation:
Tiffany daSilva, FlowJo
"CRO/Growth shouldn't start until you have a solid marketing foundation. I always make sure before I start testing things that I have a solid strategy in place for SEO, PPC and email.
I look at the website technically to ensure that we are indexing properly, I do keyword research to find new content opportunities and start building out those pages. I make sure that I've built out my PPC campaigns with solid landing pages, keyword sets and have optimized the settings as much as I can.
Then I make sure that my SEO and PPC Campaigns have been connected to a solid drip campaign.
Once these are set up, you can start really testing different pieces of your strategy and improving them little by little. Often people come to me looking for one test that is going to grow their company 100% when they don't realize they are already standing on buried treasure that they just need to dig up."
The argument here? You need a strong starting point before you can begin making improvements. Often, there are problems waiting to be solved below the surface.
- Is my site being properly indexed by search engines?
- Am I missing out on any major keyword opportunities?
- Do all of my pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns have effective landing pages?
- Have I optimized the settings of my PPC campaigns as much as possible?
- Are all of my SEO and PPC campaigns connected to a meaningful drip email campaign?
- How is my email deliverability?
- Are my emails inspiring action?
- Does my site load in all browsers?
- Does my site load on all devices?
Testing requires a certain amount of traffic. Before you run an A/B test, you have to calculate your sample size ahead of time using an online calculator:
In this scenario, I want to be able to detect a minimum 10% lift on my current 3% conversion rate, so I need 51,486 people to see variation A and 51,486 people to see variation B.
Now watch what happens if I want to be able to detect, say, a 5% lift:
As you can see, running an A/B test requires quite a bit of traffic and that number increases as the minimum detectable effect decreases. So, the smaller the effect you want to detect, the more traffic you’ll need.
This all means two things:
- Not everyone is in a position to be running tests.
- People who can run tests don’t want to waste their time and traffic on less impactful tests.
By ensuring you have a strong foundation pre-testing, you put yourself in the best position possible.
While all this research and foundation setting prepares you well, you have to prioritize execution, whether that’s in the form of a formal test, a quick fix or an informal experiment. Johnathan Dane of KlientBoost explains:
Johnathan Dane, KlientBoost
"I wish people were less romantic about their core expertise. You have to balance time and speed. Many times, doing more research only has marginal improvements when it comes to growth vs. executing, seeing what happens and then adjusting.
The other thing I wish more people knew about would be prioritization. Don't fix the sink if the well is broken.
Marketing is more holistic than people think, and there is always more growth to be had if you work from right to left, and not the traditional left to right."
After you conduct conversion research or after a brainstorming session, you’ll be drowning in growth and optimization ideas. The issue then becomes, “What should I do first?”
That’s where prioritization comes into play. Don’t let the ideas you’re most excited about (or most biased towards) take over. Instead, use a prioritization method to decide what to do first. For example, the ICE (impact, confidence, ease) method is quite popular.
Johnathan also touches on the importance of staying close to the money. Instead of working towards the money (traffic, conversions, sales), work backwards from the money (sales, conversions, traffic).
Erin Bury from Eighty-Eight explains how this starts with proper performance measurement:
Erin Bury, Eighty-Eight
"Even if you're not a data driven marketer, you can still find ways to measure the impact of your marketing efforts. Take influencer campaigns for example - engaging with influencers on Instagram or other social channels can be a great way to get your product in front of a large, engaged audience, and in many cases can lead to sales.
But it's important to track the impact of your influencer outreach so you know which people are driving traffic and sales, and which are falling flat. There are a couple ways to do this - first, you can give influencers unique promo codes to track who is purchasing with that code. Second, you can use UTM codes to create unique links, so if they're sharing a link on Twitter, Facebook, or other channels, you can see how many referral visits to your store come from their unique links.
And finally you can create an affiliate program so when people click on an influencer's link to your store, they get a cut of sales, and you can track those purchases. Even if you're doing campaigns that aren't data-focused - for example a Facebook ads campaign - you can still be tracking metrics to measure the impact of your efforts, and to evaluate whether you should be continuing to invest in similar campaigns in future."
When deciding what to measure, work backwards from the money. Peep once said, “If you want to increase your conversion rate, make everything free.” Your conversion rate would skyrocket, but revenue would plummet.
Make sure your measurements are accurate and make sure they are as close to the money as possible. Though it’s easier, optimizing at the top of the funnel (e.g. email open rates, number of pageviews) will deliver a weaker impact to revenue.
Resist the urge to measure metrics for the sake of vanity!
Speaking of human biases in testing, there’s a little something called the confirmation bias that Andre urges you to keep an eye out for:
Andre Morys, Web Arts
"Understand that most results of experiments are wrong. There are still too many experiments that are done to prove that somebody is right or somebody else is wrong.
In most cases, that conductor of the A/B test stops the test as soon as the results are comfortable and fit to the opinion. Psychologists call this ‘confirmation bias’ and most optimizers suffer from it.
You can avoid that by strictly separating the person who delivers the testing idea from the person that decides when an experiment will be stopped."
For example, if you suspect that a change to your product page will increase adds to cart, you will be more likely to influence the test results to confirm your assumptions. That might mean stopping the test early, running it for too long, interpreting the results inaccurately, etc.
That’s why you should run your tests for at least two business cycles and until your pre-calculated sample size is reached.
It also helps to avoid “peeking” at your tests while they’re running.
Be wary of testing tools! Many will tell you the test is complete because statistical significance has been reached, which may lead to you stopping the test early.
Statistical significance does not actually signal test validity on its own, so don’t be fooled.
Finally, Alex Birkett of HubSpot reminds us to be conscious of the narrative fallacy, another cognitive bias, and how it impacts our test analysis:
Alex Birkett, HubSpot
"You can't really explain ‘why’ something won or lost.
Yes, you can theorize and view your experiment results through a framework, lens, or heuristic that seems to cleanly explain a victory or loss, but it's really just a story you tell yourself to simplify things after the fact (they call it the narrative fallacy).
For instance, you may tell yourself that a certain experience using a testimonial banner won because 'our audience requires certainty in their decision making and this social proof helps bridge that gap,' and that may be true, but it may just as easily be explained away as 'our audience's attention is being directed away from key product elements on our page and this testimonial banner helps cue their attention in the right place.' Same test, same result, different story.
What's the point of this? Why can't we just tell stories, what's the harm?
The harm comes from the evidence that piles up in the direction of confirmation bias. Build up enough confidence in your predictive capabilities, and you tend to avoid certain tests because they don't conform to the narrative you've built up about your audience and CRO program. ‘This variation won't work because the color blue is associated with sadness and our audience needs to be spurred to purchasing with energetic colors,’ isn't really a valid reason to rule out an experiment variation.
Andrew Anderson said this in a CXL post and I love it:
‘The instant that something is ‘obviously’ wrong or that something is going to work ‘because…’ is the moment that your own brain shuts down. It is the moment that our own good intentions change from doing the right thing and to doing what feels best.’
My examples are super simplistic here, but they're meant to illustrate this: be humble, stop worrying about the explanation or the story behind your test. Instead, worry about the efficiency and ROI of your program, and how you can improve those."
The story you tell yourself about what works, what doesn’t and why matters. It’s not enough to be aware of the cognitive biases impacting your visitors and customers. You’re subject to those same cognitive biases and they will creep into your test results if you’re not careful.
4. User Experience (UX)
When you’re looking to improve the UX of your store, a little heuristic analysis can go a long way. Essentially, that means walking through your site page by page, evaluating it based on a set of factors.
I normally use the following factors to guide me:
- Motivation: What’s influencing the visitor to take action (or not)?
- Friction: What’s difficult and causing roadblocks?
- Distraction: What’s taking away from the top call to action?
- Relevancy: What’s irrelevant or out of context?
- Clarity: What’s unclear or too complex?
UX ties into the other three disciplines mentioned above. And, as with the others, a customer-centric UX approach is best. Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media explains:
Andy Crestodina, Orbit Media
"Unanswered questions kill conversions. So the first job of the CRO is to learn the top questions and answer them on the page. Here's a prioritized list of the top sources for customers’ top questions, ordered from best to worst:
1. Talking directly to customers.
2. Talking to sales associates who talk to customers.
3. Reading chat logs.
4. The site Search > Search Terms reports in Google Analytics.
5. Keyphrase research.
Once you have your list, prioritize it and get those questions answered in that general order. Next, support those answers with evidence, and make sure the call to action is prominent and compelling.
Conversion is about empathy and clarity. Specific information, strong evidence and clear calls to action!"
Again, all of the qualitative conversion research for copywriting purposes is being recycled.
Andy emphasizes the importance of clarity, one of the five heuristic factors, here. It’s a good idea to identify the value each page delivers to the visitor as well as the most important call to action on each page.
Being clear about what you can do for them (value) and what they can do for themselves (call to action) is vital. One page, one goal. Anything else is a distraction, which doesn’t benefit you or your visitors.
When communicating the value, Dominic Coryell of GIMME GROWTH suggests asking yourself what’s in it for the visitor:
Dominic Coryell, GIMME GROWTH
"One thing that I wish more people would think about, myself included sometimes, is really understanding ‘what's in it for me’ (me being the visitor) before asking them to do something.
Take ‘Share with a Friend’, for example. A lot of people throw share buttons on everything. I often ask myself, ‘What is there to share? Am I missing something share-worthy? Why would I share this?’
If we remember to ask ourselves, ‘Why would I share this?’ before popping those buttons, we de-mystify the UX and avoid cluttering the UI.
I think share buttons are often times thrown on a page because a marketer thinks ‘Why not? If I can get some people to share, that's great!’ Which is true and I've done that. But then I see that no one shares and I think I have a shitty product. The problem is I haven't thought enough about the value of the share for the visitor.
What is the incentive? Will people think I'm privy to knowledge they're not? (i.e. I'm a good source of knowledge wealth). Do I get early access? Do I get a financial reward?
If you can't find value for the visitor in sharing, you have two options. Don't add the button. Or, put pictures of kittens into your share message. Kittens are always worth sharing, so when in doubt..."
The moral here goes far beyond share buttons. It’s twofold:
- Be overly concerned about the value every element of every page delivers to the visitor.
- Don’t put something on the page unless it serves a meaningful purpose.
You have to serve the visitor first. Every element of every page should be purposeful and provide value, including your calls to action and products.
Now, UX is particularly interesting because there are a ton of best practices that have been circulating for years. Some valuable, some not so valuable.
For example, Noah Kagan of Sumo reminds us to be conscious of our above the fold real estate:
Noah Kagan, Sumo
"Be extremely intentional with above the fold of your website. It is the PRIME real estate. Instead of a fancy stock photo, use a clear CTA to generate leads or sales. Last but not least, keep testing different CTAs to improve the bottom line."
If you’re not familiar, “above the fold” refers to the portion of the site that’s visible without having to scroll. It’s a holdover from the newspaper era.
As you can imagine, discussions about the importance of the above the fold area have been around for many years.
In this case, the best practice has stood the test of time.
The above the fold real estate is still incredibly important. Nielsen Norman Group recently found that the average difference in how users treat info above vs. below the fold is 84%.
Impressive given the changing landscape. For example, with the rise of mobile, the fold as we know it has changed quite a bit.
As you can see, best practices aren’t inherently bad. They can actually be a good starting point, as Peep mentioned at the beginning of the article.
But it’s important to understand the why behind them.
For example, you’ll read that people don’t scroll, so all of your important information needs to be above the fold. That’s very inaccurate. Actually, a recent study found that 11% of mobile users start scrolling within four seconds of the page loading.
People do scroll, it’s not the 90s. And they will even click your calls to action below the fold. So, why does the fold still matter, really?
Because your above the fold content sets the stage. It sets expectations for content to come and quality to come.
Justin Rondeau of DigitalMarketer is a proponent of choice best practices as well:
Justin Rondeau, DigitalMarketer
"So this might be a bit controversial, but I REALLY wish people both outside and especially inside the CRO and growth discipline would know/admit that best practices aren't as bad you think or have been taught.
Sure you shouldn't blindly apply best practices and expect to see massive lifts in leads, sales, etc.
To fall back on 'you have to test that' to know anything is time-consuming and dangerous.
Simply put, for most companies, there are a finite number of true experiments they can run each year. If they have to test everything, then nothing will get done. So there needs to be some kind of standard for a starting point. That starting point is...
...you guessed it: BEST PRACTICES.
Think about it. The term 'best practice' is really just a synonym for 'common practice'. Something that is common is familiar, and a familiar experience is much easier to navigate than an unfamiliar one.
Again, I'm not saying we should adopt all best practices in some kind of 'one size fits all' approach to marketing. You use best practices as a starting point, get to a baseline, then start to customize using testing methodologies that are actually meaningful.
You are looking for outlying results. You want to take the average industry conversion rate and double, triple, hell, quadruple it. In order to do this, you need to at least have a baseline to start from with a familiar and usable foundation. From there you can do all your fun processes and tricks to find the outliers for your business.
Best practices aren't as bad as you think (or have been taught)."
As long as you understand the why behind the best practice and remain aware of how it’s evolving over time, it can be useful. Especially if you don’t have the traffic to test yet and haven’t had a chance to dive into conversion research.
From copywriting and psychology to testing and UX, the experts really delivered.
Now you know how to move beyond the growth hacks and tactics to systematic processes that will produce real results for your unique store.
And, of course, you know to optimize your site sooner rather than later to avoid perpetually filling a “leaky bucket”.
Yet we haven’t even scratched the surface.
There are so many other lessons to explore within these four disciplines as well as many other disciplines that make up CRO and growth. But that’s what makes the industry so exciting.
To start, take these lessons and apply them to your business. Then, continue to iterate and learn. As you explore, just remember: CRO and growth are for everyone, even blossoming ecommerce entrepreneurs like yourself.
If you have any questions, leave a comment below and I’ll be sure to get back to you.