Increase Your Conversion Rate For $1524.00

September 28, 2006

How do you increase your conversion rate when your total budget is only $1500?

This is the question that I confronted recently when someone submitted a Contact Us form on our website. She made it very clear that she had very little budget to increase her conversion rate.

I thought about this for a while. Here are some of the things that owners of small businesses, who are not ready to spend much on outside conversion firms or consultants, might consider:

Do some cheap user testing.

Go find five to eight people who you know vaguely but who don’t know much about what you do. (For example, the parents of some of your friends, if they live in the same city. If you can get people who mirror your target customer, so much the better, but as long as your product is not so technical that the individual won’t understand the vocabulary, this is worth doing even with non-target users.) Sit down with them while they look at their computer and you are recording their thoughts (and tell them to talk out loud since you can’t read their minds.) For 2-3, ask them to do whatever your site does (e.g. make a purchase. Request more information on your site.) For the balance, ask them what they think they could achieve on your website, and see if they can achieve it. Take great notes, keep your thoughts to yourself while they are working, and give them something for their time. If they are distant friends, they may be uncomfortable accepting your money but might love a $20 gift certificate to Starbucks.

Cost: about $200, depending on whether you need to compensate anyone with real money.

Install some free analytics and read them

Sign up for a copy of Google Analytics (they are now open to everyone.) Ask your web guy or gal to put the code that Google gives you on every page, or better yet, in a file that gets included in every page. Read the Google help section here, and when you get to a part that you don’t understand, just skip it. (I’m serious. You’ll learn it in time, but if you stop and say, “Don’t understand it, can’t figure it out, can’t afford to hire someone,” you’ll lose all your momentum.) Every week, look at one new report so that you gradually learn what the analytics mean. Be sure to read all the little notes at the bottom of each report so that you really understand what the report means. Be sure that you create Google Analytic Goals — maybe you will have to stay with your analytics for a couple of months before you know how to do that yourself. Subscribe to the Official Google Analytics blog if you are just learning analytics. If you know them, subscribe to This Just In and ROI Revolution’s blog.

As you learn what your analytics mean, start to understand what changes they are suggesting. For example, where, in your most important (top) content is your bounce rate too high? People come to websites for lots of reasons – sometimes just to get a phone number – but a high bounce rate often signals a problem with that page.

Cost, $150 for your IT guy’s time.

Learn as time permits, as cheaply as you can

Buy a copy of the Eisenberg’s Call to Action and Persuasive Online CopyWriting and Steve Krug’s usability-for-newbies book, Don’t Make Me Think.

Cost, $74.54 if you buy them all new.

Subscribe to some blogs and email marketing. You already found this blog, so let me suggest The Site is Dead (that’s Matt Roche’s blog – he is the CEO of testing company Offermatica.) Other owners of blogs about conversion rate are welcome to get on and say, how about my blog? Blogs are wonderful for learning about a topic like this because you get a little bit of information at a time, not a book that you look at and keep meaning to read.

Cost: free

(Note: Steve Krug’s book is designed to be short enough to read on a long airplane ride. Call to Action is laid out in very short, bite-sized chunks.)

Do some testing using Google AdWords

Now that you see where some of your problems are (user testing and web analytics) and have learned what some solutions are (learning as time permits), you can do some inexpensive landing page tests. Take one page that your users had a really hard time with, and create an alternative to it that your new education indicates might be a winner. Create a Google AdWord campaign with two ads (they let you create multiple ads which they show in rotation, as you probably know). Be sure that one ad lands on the current “bad” page and the other ad lands on the page you are testing. Let it run for a few months (because if you are a small business with a small budget, you probably don’t have the kind of traffic to get statistical relevance in a week.) Measure which one “wins” — you have to define “winning” yourself, but you can measure in three different ways:

  1. Add the Google AdWords conversion code to your success page (often, a “Thank you very much” page)
  2. Change the titles of the ads every so slightly so that you can see them differently in Google AdWords (and I really mean slightly. Example, add a colon after the headline of one)
  3. Turn off autotagging in Google Analytics, create your own tags with a different utm_content tag, and measure in Google Analytics. Here is a link to doing that one.

No matter which way you go, be sure that you change your Google AdWords Campaigns so that it shows your ads evenly (i.e. do not let it “optimize” the one that gets the most clicks, since you care about conversion, not clicks, and you don’t want to see your test get skewed by high click-through yet low conversion ads.)

Cost for this one depends on how many clicks you have to get in order to learn something from your tests. If one of your tests shows your conversion rate going from 1% to 2% for people who landed on that page, you can get away with only 1000 clicks for each test version. If you can find a keyword at $.30 a click, your cost will be $600. Plus you will spend $500 for the creation of a test page.

Total cost: $1524. Remember that the biggest variables are in the Google AdWords testing: can you get the keywords that cheap, and is the difference in your new conversion rate going to be high enough to let you pay for only 1000 clicks per test version?

Robbin Steif

ps I published this again in an effort to get the feeds to work correctly. Sorry. RFS