A lot of small to mid-sized businesses are realizing the value of optimizing their Websites for conversion, but many find the idea of where and how to start a bit daunting.
Before your small business gets started with conversion optimization, there are a few things you’ll need before you get started:
- Conversion Tracking – Many small businesses don’t have accurate conversion tracking implemented, and/or can’t track their primary activity (for instance if you don’t have a way to track phone calls or foot traffic to your store and those are your primary objective, you effectively can’t track conversions). If you can’t measure conversions, you won’t be able to optimize for them, so you’ll need to address this issue first.
- Sufficient Traffic – Many small and local businesses simply don’t drive enough on-line traffic to invest in conversion optimization. If you’re only getting a few hundred, or even a few thousand, visitors to your site a month and the number of visitors who actually convert is in the tens rather than the hundreds, you’ll likely be better off optimizing for the “top of the funnel” and working on tactics like SEO, advertising, content marketing, etc. to get more traffic to your site before you start to optimize for better conversion rates.
- Ideas – Conversion tools won’t tell you what to actually test – you’ll have to have your own ideas about what elements of your site you think could work better with some refinements and will have to have ideas of what to test. What could you change to make visitors to your site more likely to take the action you want them to?
If you already have each of the above and you’re considering tools to help with implementing some actual tests, the tools below are definitely worth considering:
Convert.com enables SMBs to conduct A/B and Multivariate testing and offers intergration with Google Analytics. You also get some of the standard landing page creation tools such as a WYSIWYG editor, easy HTML capabilities and style sheet editor.
Convert has some e-commerce specific features as well, such as the ability to connect revenue, transactions and ordered items to your test results to show the best overall picture of outcomes. For such tests they’ve designed some automated controls to keep losing variations from running longer than necessary, while allowing winning variations to continue producing leads and revenue.
Cost Breakdown: Convert offers a 15-day free trial at all pricing levels; pricing starts at $139 per month for the starter package (a bit higher starter price than some alternatives), which includes 50,000 tested visitors but doesn’t include advanced integration or geo-targeting. Expert level pricing runs $399 per month and includes 200,000 tested visitors, while Agency level is $1,499 per month for 1,000,000 tested visitors. Each additional 1,000 visitors is $3 at this level. Enterprise packages are also available.
Optimizely is a popular, simple-to-use program that enables the continuous tracking of any variations you want to implement after inserting a single line of code into your HTML. The program can track a variety of variables, including clicks, conversions, signups or any other measurable metrics you define.
It also integrates with several widely used analytics tools, including Google Analytics, KISSmetrics and SiteCatalyst. Like Convert (and many of the conversion optimization offers) Optimizely offers a WYSIWYG editor allows you to move elements around, edit text, images and more without ever touching a line of code. You can also read this Q and A with co-founder Dan Siroker on Small Biz Trends from a couple of years back.
Cost Breakdown: Three plan levels are available: Bronze, Silver or Gold. Each offers a 30-day free trial. The Bronze plan costs just $17 per month and includes 2,000 monthly visitors. The Silver plan is $71 per month, including 20,000 monthly visitors, and the Gold plan costs $359 per month and includes 200,000 monthly visitors. Additional features vary by plan and increase with each level. A fourth level is available, Platinum, but interested parties must call to discuss pricing.
Unbounce offers a lot of the same tracking and landing page creation tools as the other platforms, including several landing page templates to help get you started, and an easy-to-understand reporting dashboard for conducting A/B and multi-variant tests.
Unbounce landing pages are hosted on Unbounce’s servers, although you can use a custom sub-domain name to make it look like a part of your primary Website (this is fairly easy to set up but may require very minor intervention from a developer). They offer a lot of nice third-party integrations, such as Google Analytics and even email management platforms like Constant Contact and Mail Chimp, which make it easy to sync your landing pages with a variety of other applications. Widgets permit the easy addition of videos and other media for a more interactive user experience as well.
Cost Breakdown: Plans include Starter ($49 per month for 5,000 unique visitors), Pro 99 ($99 per month for 25,000 unique visitors) and Pro 199 ($199 per month for 100,000 unique visitors). A free 30-day trial is available at all levels, and the Pro packages includes more features such as integration, two sub-users and the ability to add multiple users.
Visual Website Optimizer offers a few unique features that differentiate it from other A/B Testing tools, including behavioral targeting, which allows you to show specific visitors targeted messages to help boost conversions. Another bonus is the heat maps feature, which tracks visitors’ eye path to determine which CTAs are getting the most attention, where visitors’ eyes are directed to first and what areas of the page aren’t being noticed.
Like its competitors, Visual Website Optimizer allows landing page editing without any knowledge of HTML. You can split URLs, conduct multivariate testing and select from 15 different targeting options, including behaviors, system, geolocation and more. Finally, use the built-in usability testing option to ask visitors questions to get valuable user feedback.
Cost Breakdown: Choose from four plans: Small Business ($49 per month for 10,000 tested visitors), Small Agency ($129 per month for 30,000 tested visitors), Large Agency ($249 per month for 100,000 tested visitors) or Enterprise (call for pricing to test millions of visitors each month). Both agency plans offer multiple logins, while the Large Agency plan also includes sub-accounts.
InstaPage offers landing page templates and a drag-and-drop interface that lets you easily add elements and move them around the page. Landing page widgets let you add third-party content from sources like Twitter and Facebook. A single, simplified interface tracks all your stats including visitors, page views, conversions and more.
InstaPage’s claim to fame, however, is its different approach to A/B Testing: Instead of a standard split test, the platform uses “Machine Learning” technology to automatically improve your landing pages. How it works: InstaPage tracks what content was displayed when a conversion occurs along with how far the user scrolled down the page, the time spent on page and other conversion metrics. This information is then used to improve your landing pages based on what works.
A couple of important notes of caution here:
- Any time something (whether it’s made by a third party vendor or Google themselves) tells you it will do your optimizing for you, make sure you take the time to dig in and understand how that software is picking winners, and ensure that the metrics that are driving their automation decisions are the ones that are important to your business. Having software make decisions for you in the background sounds really nice, but if they’re optimizing for something like time-on-site rather than conversions and revenue, the decisions could actually be sub-optimal for your business
- When landing page software says they’re “Google Friendly” be sure you either understand the SEO implications of using their software, or consult with an SEO expert who does before exposing a page that drive significant SEO traffic to your site.
Cost Breakdown: InstaPage offers a 30-day free trial on all account levels, and prices are lower than competitors. A Single plan is just $9 per month, which includes one landing page and one custom domain along with all the other features such as automated optimization and lead form integration. The Basic plan, at $29 per month, includes five landing pages and five custom domains, while the Standard plan is $49 per month and includes unlimited landing pages and custom domains. The kicker: Every plan includes unlimited visitor tracking.
Bonus App: Google Analytics Content Experiments (formerly Google Website Optimizer)
If you’re not thrilled about the idea of forking over some cash for A/B Testing, fear not: Our favorite – and free – Web analytics platform, Google Analytics, now has integrated Content Experiments, what was formerly known as Google Website Optimizer. Because it’s right in your Google Analytics dashboard, you can use your already-created goals to track results for up to five different landing pages, each set up on its own URL.
You can define what percentage of visitors are included in your content experiments, choose the metrics on which to measure success and directly compare complete variants all within the same Google Analytics platform you’ve been using to track visitors and results for years.
There’s no easy WYSIWYG editor, so all the technical coding is up to you. But in terms of statistical analysis, Google Analytics Content Experiments handles all that for you. So if you have the coding knowledge or development and design resources at your disposal, this is a free, easy solution to get you started creating landing pages that convert.
How to Choose Just One?
Each of the tools has some form of free trial, so I’d recommend taking a look at the features outlined above and narrowing to two or three that seem to suit your needs and then actually trying them out. If your requirements are more basic, it might come down to which is the easiest to use for you and/or price.
Personally we use Unbounce for most of our own and our clients’ projects because of the design of the application and the feature-set offered (also by the way if you’re looking for inspiration on things to test and/or conversion best practices, their blog is an excellent resource regardless of which tool you choose), but again a different tool may better suit your needs and/or price point depending on what you’re trying to accomplish, so take a couple for a spin and see what fits!