November 26, 2014

5 Ways Top Marketers Are Kicking Your Butt in Conversion Rate Optimization

conversion rate experts methodology

Once you’ve invested in driving traffic to your landing pages, you have to close the deal as many times as possible. This is the basic premise of conversion rate optimization: Finding the right formula to entice as many people as possible to take your desired action.

In our recent analysis of thousands of Google AdWords accounts with a combined $3 billion in annual spend, we discovered that some advertisers are doing this far better than others, on a consistent basis. These super-converters aren’t a tiny minority, either. We found that the top converting 10% of AdWords advertisers regularly outperform the average conversion rates for their respective industries by 3 to 5 times.

That’s thousands of people in your industry regularly kicking your butt. Are you okay with that?

I didn’t think so. But what can you do about it? If you want to make real, lasting changes to your conversion rate optimization strategy that can help propel you into this elite group of super-converters, you first need to understand what they’re doing that you’re not.

Conversion Rate Experts Methodology

1. They Know the Difference Between Best Practices and Meaningful Optimizations

Conventional CRO dictates that you tweak and test any number of combinations of the following factors until you find the sweet spot: The button color, white space, line spacing, text size and color, image placement and variety, etc. In fact, you might switch things around and find that your conversion rates jumps!

There are two problems with this:

  1. These gains rarely last – they don’t account for regular, everyday fluctuation and once the “new” wears off, you still have the same old landing page with the same old offer.
  2. You may be testing prematurely and with too-small a sample size. Even an extra 5 conversions can seem like a big leap if you’re only measuring 100-200 total.

The above tactics are really just basic testing best practices that you should be employing anyway. They aren’t going to make a huge difference and certainly won’t get you 3 – 5 times above average results.

2. They Shoot for Better Than Average

What is a good conversion rate? Traditionally, we’ve considered 2% to 5% pretty decent.

In our data analysis though, we tracked the conversions of thousands of accounts. Not individual landing pages, but performance across entire accounts. We removed low volume accounts and those that hadn’t set up conversion tracking properly. What we found is that about ¼ of AdWords accounts have conversion rates less than 1%. Pretty awful, right?

The median conversion rate is 2.35%, so if you’re achieving that, you’re middle of the pack. However, the top 25% of AdWords account have conversion rates across their account of 5.31% or greater.

See the last red bar, below? Those are the top 10% of advertisers and their conversion rates are 11.45% or higher.

landing-page-conversion-rate-distribution

Of course, average conversion rates vary across industries. For example, we found that the average in eCommerce is just 1.84%, while in finance, it’s 5.01%. Still, the corresponding top 10% are 3 – 5 times higher, regardless of the industry, so in eCommerce the top 10% threshold is 11.45% and in finance it’s 24.48%. If you’re happy with 2 – 5% conversion rates, you’re nowhere near reaching your potential, even in lower converting industries.

3. They Have Amazing, Creative Offers

Here’s a major way the top converting advertisers break away from the pack: Their offers are incredible.

Marketers tend to go with what’s proven and safe. It’s how we justify our spend to clients and employers. However, safe often means you’re doing the exact same thing as everyone else. If you’re a financial advisor, you’re probably offering a one-hour consultation free of charge. If you sell software, you’re probably giving people a free trial. Boring.

The top advertisers put the legwork into testing new, completely different and highly creative offers. Ask your prospects what they really want from you before they commit to your product or service – their answers might surprise you.

Your offer should serve two purposes: Enticing visitors to convert, and helping you qualify prospects. Get brainstorming and testing some new offers.

4. They Have a Deep Understanding of the Path to Conversion

You might be killing off conversions without even realizing it.

Have a test group of people who know nothing about your product or service try to get through your offer. Where do they become disinterested? At what point do they feel what you’re asking them to do isn’t worth what you’re offering? This is a common problem with sign up forms and eCommerce purchases alike.

You need to get in front of any potential roadblocks or objections and change the way your offer flows to get rid of them. To do that, you need to gather the intelligence necessary to understand how your ideal customer converts and how you can make it simple for them to do so.

5. They Test Way More (& They Test Smarter) Than You

Logically, if you want to break into that top 10% – that 1 in 10 best converting circle – you need to test at least 10 landing pages to find your winner. These advertisers who are achieving top 10% results across their account aren’t doing it with one winning landing page, though. They find one, then start over, replicating the process to find another one, until everything they’re running is in top form.

landing-page-distribution

In fact, another interesting thing we discovered is that on average, about 85% of Web traffic goes to the top 20% of your landing pages (see chart above). Think about that: Do the landing pages that produce the remaining 15% of traffic combined deserve an equal amount of time and effort?

Cut the fat, quit wasting time changing button colors and moving text around on your low performers, and focus on replicating that one really awesome landing page.

Time to Quit Being a Landing Page Doormat

I’m telling you, there is no reason you can’t break the top converting 10% in your industry on AdWords. The bar is really low when you consider how many of your competitors are barely optimizing at all.

Computer Photo via Shutterstock

7 Comments ▼

Larry Kim


Larry Kim Larry Kim founded WordStream in 2007. He serves as company CTO and is the author of 4 Award-Winning Books on Software Development. Larry also blogs at the WordStream Blog and practices photography in his spare time.

7 Reactions

  1. Lots of good tips. Got a good post on how to go about creating and testing all these new landing pages?

  2. I think that real conversions happen through testing. It doesn’t happen overnight. You need to test and test like there’s no tomorrow. You have to keep what works and ditch what doesn’t. Through this, you can get your page’s maximum conversion rate.

  3. What really is the meaning of the expression, “kick your butt in conversation rate optimization”?! I get a strange visual image… ;)

  4. They also tend not to make the most common mistakes when optimizing: overlapping a/b tests, not considering business cycles, not testing long enough, stopping the test immediately after they get a positive result, testing in the wrong places within the funnel etc.

  5. Your last line is key – “The bar is really low when you consider how many of your competitors are barely optimizing at all.” Most people do not spend enough time and money on their campaigns. They’ll throw $10 at it, not receive a conversion – and then say Adwords doesn’t work! Throw $100 at a campaign and you’ll already be 10 times better than your competition.

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