Editor Note: We highly recommend that you implement the different ideas in this blog post through AB testing. Use the guide to conduct AB testing and figure out which of these ideas in the article works for your website visitors and which don’t. Download Invesp’s “The Essentials of Multivariate & AB Testing” now to start your testing program on the right foot.
This article will suggest many elements that you can consider when creating a test. However, before you jump into selecting elements and creating variations for them, ask yourself:
Why are you selecting a particular element? Why are you testing the headline as opposed to the hero image? Why not test the benefits list or the call to action on the page?
The process of selecting elements to test on a page is where real conversion optimization happens.
If you are looking for a long-term strategy, something that will produce a meaningful impact on your bottom line, then we suggest you invest the time in learning more about the conversion framework.
Any decent marketing specialist should be able to suggest many different elements to test on a particular webpage. The real challenge, though, lies in creating a long-term strategy; creating a testing program that quadruples your online sales; creating a conversion optimization program that spans three, four or five years.
We understand that you might be looking for shortcuts. You might be looking for ways to capture the low-hanging fruits first. This guide can help you. However, you must remember that conversion optimization is not a light switch you turn on and off. It is a long-term commitment.
1. How do you select what page you would test?
One of the first tasks you should think about is how to select a particular page for testing. With any website, you can test anywhere from five to ten different pages.
To select your pages, start looking at your data. Make sure that you have done the following:
• Analyze your quantitative data (marketing and analytics data) and create buyer personas for your visitors.
• Conduct qualitative studies to identify areas where visitors struggle with the website.
• Conduct a competitive analysis of your website against your competitors.
• Conduct an analytics assessment to determine areas of the website that are leaking visitors.
• Create a conversion roadmap to outline the different pages and marketing messages you should test.
A conversion roadmap will look something like this:
|Test #||Page||Area of focus|
|2||Cart Page||FUDs / Value proposition|
2. What elements should you test on a page?
As you determine your conversion roadmap, your next step is to tackle each page on the roadmap. The conversion roadmap helps you identify the page you will be testing and the focus of the test.
In our example above, the focus on the first test is the value proposition. Many elements on a page convey and strengthen the value proposition. For example, the headline, the benefits list, the image, etc. Selecting which element amongst these to test will be left to your judgment. The advantage is that the process of selecting the element and creating its variations is now driven by a focus on the value proposition.
3. Create a hypothesis
As you select the element you need to test and its variations, you should create a hypothesis about the test. What is a testing hypothesis? It is a predictive statement about a possible change on the page and its impact on your conversion rate.
Going back to our example of the homepage and the value proposition, let’s say you selected the headline as the element you will test. Your hypothesis could look like this:
Adding a strong headline that emphasize the company value proposition will increase conversions.
Every meaningful test starts with a good hypothesis.
The following sections will provide you with different suggestions on elements you should consider when creating your test.
First impressions last. Still, on your e-commerce or leadgeneration landing pages, they can last less than a second.
The headline is one of the first elements visitors will notice on your landing page. It is your opportunity to express your value proposition and appeal to the different visitor personas.
The Trigger & Benefit
A “trigger” in your headline gives readers a reason to continue reading your landing page. Simple trigger words include “Learn,” “Get,” “Save,” or just about anything else that lets them know they are going to get something. The “benefit” outlines exactly what they will get. For example: Save on Fashions (trigger) and Look Fabulous Too (benefit).
Try powerful, compelling words. Something like this:
- Write Killer Headlines
Headlines that Boost Your Sales
A Fast, Powerful Way to Get Brilliant Results
Keywords are the internet’s great gift to marketers. They let you know the language of your customer. There is no denying the value of keywords in your headline – not just in attracting customers, but in helping your SEO too. Try different words in assorted combinations of the other options in this list.
Do any research, and you will find excellent, contrasting advice supporting short, long and just about every length of headline. It should be as long as it needs to be – and no more. Short headlines tend to be punchier and may help your landing page stand out better on a SERP. Longer headlines can help you better qualify the visitors to your page. Shorter headlines can get you more traffic while longer ones can get you traffic that is more likely to convert. Sub-headlines – Make sure you try combining headlines with sub-headlines to help get more information across and improve the chances that your visitors will stay.
Questions, Commands & Other Headline Techniques
Here are some samples to illustrate these options:
- Want to Have More Effective Headlines?
(When you pose a question that your readers want to see answered, they are compelled to read on.)
- Start Writing Better Headlines Today
(Your readers sometimes need to be told what to do.)
- 5 Tips for Writing Irresistible Headlines
(Tell your readers exactly what they will get from your landing page.)
- How to Write Headlines That Hook Your Readers
(Another trigger – benefit formula: “How to _____ (trigger) that will ______ (benefit).)
- Just Released: The 5 Most Effective Ways to Write Better Headlines
(This headline makes your landing page sound newsworthy like it’s an event.)
Benefits and Features
The first level of attracting customers is features, which are the facts about a given product or service. Features of an outdoor grill might include:
• Grease tray
• Non-stick cooking surface
• Temperature control
• 300 square inches of cooking space
• Attached working surface
Features do not sell a product by themselves. They do not give the “what is in this for me?” answers, although they do give useful information.
Benefits start you on the road to getting a conversion. The benefits of the above outdoor grill include:
• Convenience (feature)
o Non-stick cooking surface
o Attached working surface
• Easy to Use (feature)
o Non-stick cooking surface
o Temperature control
o Attached working surface
• Saves Money (feature)
o Temperature control
Let’s take another example, this time we will use the features of Basecamp using their own copy. We are not listing all of the product features here:
• Pings: Personal backchannels
• Unlimited for everyone
• Work Can Wait
• Campfires: Gather ‘round and talk
• To-dos: Assign multiple people + date ranges
• All New Search
Notice how each of the above items lists a product feature in Basecamp. How do you translate that into actual benefits for the end user? Basecamp explains the benefit to the end user for each of the above features with a paragraph.
• Pings: Personal backchannels (feature)
Pings are like instant messages or direct messages. Want to get someone’s take on something before sharing it with everyone else? Just ping them!
• Unlimited for everyone (feature)
For the past 12 years, Basecamp has limited the number of projects you could create based on which plan you were on. Maybe you had the 10 project plan or the 40 project plan. The only way to get unlimited was to reach deep in your pockets and upgrade to the highest plan. No longer! Now every plan – even the entry-level plan, is unlimited!
What should you test with benefits and features?
1. Should your main copy rely on benefits or features or both?
2. How do you list benefits or features (paragraph or bulletpoints)?
3. The order of the benefits list
4. The order of the features list
5. Should you use images to support benefits list?
6. Should you use images to support features list?
7. What language should you use to express/convey features and features (direct, hip, classic, etc)?
We discussed using benefits and features to persuade your visitors to convert, above. Results are even better. Results state the value customers get from using your product or service.
Going back to our grill example: what results do your customers want from your barbecue? They want a grill that offers:
• Tasty, Healthy Food Every time
o Temperature control
o Grease tray
• Perfect for Easy Entertaining
o 300 square inches of cooking space
o Attached working area
o Easy to clean
• A Double Bonus: Environmentally Friendly While Saving You Money!
o Electric versus charcoal emissions
o Do not have to buy charcoal for the life of the grill
How can you determine the results that your customers want? By knowing your customers and the reasons they buy your products. In addition, you need to know why other people prefer your competitors’ products. Then, go back to the question “what is in it for me?”
Tell your potential customers the exact results of your product or service. Don’t be shy. This is a case where tooting your own horn is the right thing to do.
What should you test with results?
• Style of listing results (paragraphs or bullet points)
• Placement of results
• Order of the results (which result resonates first with customer and which is more important)
• Language used for expressing results
A lot has been written about the impact of web copy on persuading visitors to convert. Your copy as much as your design play an important role in conveying a concept to your website visitors.
While many companies invest a lot in creating nicely designed websites, they pay little attention to copy. However, over the years, we have seen the impact of well-written persuasive copy on convincing a visitor to convert.
If you are looking to start testing, then we can only assume that you created personas for your website. Persuasive web copy must appeal to each of your personas with the different traits within the same web page.
Let us assume the following two personas are amongst the ones you created for your website:
• Joe a 36-year-old college graduates who is an impulsive buyer always looking out for deals
• Shelley, a 44-year-old stay-at-home mom who is cautious about spending her money
How do you create copy that appeals to both of them?
Joe is looking for a quick synopsis of what your product has to offer. He doesn’t need nor like to read lengthy copy. He wants to get on your website, check out your product, place an order and leave the website within five minutes.
Shelley, on the other hand, will spend hours reading every little word in your copy. She wants to know the product will truly help her and she will get her money’s worth. She would like to see product comparison charts, product specs, concerns others had with the product and any warranty information that you can offer.
Creating persuasive copy that appeals to both personas is challenging. It is also what makes the difference between a great copywriter and an average one.
Persuasive copy helps potential customers understand their current state and encourages them to envision how your product and service will transform their state for better, gently guiding them through the conversion process. Remember that, in most cases, your biggest competitors are not other vendors who offer the same solution or products, but rather the current tools your visitors are using or needing.
Bryan Eisenberg, the leading conversion expert, reminds us of a critical element for successful copy:
People rationalize buying decisions based on facts, but they make buying decisions based on feelings
Persuasive copy appeals first to the visitors’ emotions. It creates a powerful imagery in the mind of the visitor about their state of being when they start using your product or service. In his book, Persuasive Online Copywriting,
Joseph Sugarman proposed the following structure:
• Open strongly by eliciting interest and excitement.
• Develop the drama; explain why the product or service is different.
• Explain how to use the product or service.
• Elaborate on the unique benefits.
• Justify the purchase; identify the lasting value.
• Address service concerns.
• Ask for order.
What should you test with your copy?
1. Focusing on money vs.time (or both)
2. Focusing on intellect vs. emotions (or both)
3. Focusing on pain vs. gains (or both)
4. Focusing on style vs. substance (or both)
5. Style of writing (modern, classic, etc)
Long Copy Vs. Short Copy
We all have seen both long and short copy webpages. The debate online continues on which is better. There will be no right answer ever because it ultimately depends on your product, target market and the role of each page of your site. There isn’t a “one size fits all” rule about anything within the realm of conversion optimization, and that definitely applies to long copy as well.
The most important is deciding, based on your target market and product, when to use long and when to use short copy. A good rule of thumb is that the more investment your product or service requires from customers, the longer the copy needs to be. You must also remember that when creating long copy, it must be persuasive.
What should you test?
• Long vs. short copy format
• Different lengths of copy
Video vs. Images
We discussed above the importance of images on increasing conversions, but, in many cases, well-produced videos outperform images in increasing conversions. The video vs. images performance, of course, varies from one industry to the next.
Blumenthals conducted a study focused on the impact for lawyers searches of having author pictures appear in results vs. author videos. They concluded:
Authorship snippets have a greater positive impact on CTR’s for specialty lawyer searches than video snippets. Video snippets have a greater positive impact on CTR’s for specialty lawyer searches than having no media snippet, but less of a positive impact than authorship snippets.
Invesp’s research indicates that video has the greatest impact on e-commerce stores when retailers included videos of their staff using and demonstrating products. The conversion uplift from such videos averaged 17%.
What should you test?
1. The user of product videos vs. images
2. The type of videos used
3. Length of video
Call To Action (CTA) Buttons
Calls to actions ask visitors to take an immediate action. Supported by persuasive copy, visitors respond to your offer by clicking on the call to action, which might be either buttons or lines of text. Of course, the action you are asking visitors to take should be the primary conversion goal on the page.
As you create CTAs for your page, keep in mind the following guidelines:
• Including a no-obligation statement increases the chances of visitors clicking on your CTA.
• Simple, straightforward CTA text beats smart/complicated CTA.
• Tell visitors what to expect after they click on your CTA.
• Ask visitors to take the action immediately.
What should you test with call to action buttons?
1. Button vs. text call to action
2. Text used in the CTA
3. Color of the CTA
4. Size of the CTA
5. Design of the CTA
6. Placement of CTA
People view or scan pages in a “Z pattern.” There are two important areas on a web page above the fold (highlighted in red in the image below):
• The upper left corner on the page
• The lower right corner on the page
Alternatively, when reading pages, people use an “F pattern.” Usability expert, Jacob Nielsen, published a study showing the “F pattern”:
image credit: nngroup
How does that impact you?
• Use the top section of the page for your value proposition using a strong headline. Use the left side of the page for navigation.
• Use bottom portion of the F pattern for the CTA.
What should you test with eye path?
1. Appearance of different page elements
2. Vertical vs. horizontal layout of the page
3. Placement of the CTA on the page
ion is often misunderstood to be a single stated statement on a website, such as the tagline. However, successful companies are able to convey their value proposition in the copy, the elements, the overall design of their landing page and campaign, and even the tagline. Make sure not to confuse your value proposition with incentives.
What should you test value proposition?
1. Test different statements that express the value proposition.
2. Test location/placement of the value proposition statement on a web page.
3. Test different elements on the page in terms of conveying the value proposition.
We covered trust in a chapter of our book, Conversion Optimization: The Art and Science of Converting Prospects to Customers.
What symbols, designs, copy do you have to support trust? You should start by:
• Listing all elements that you have that increase the trust of the visitors in your business.
• Ordering the elements in terms of value to the visitor.
Notice how we use three different areas on our “contact us” page to increase visitor trust:
Since our goal is to give visitors the confidence that we are a trustworthy business that delivers results, we use the name of the companies and partners we have worked with, as well as the number of successful A/B tests we have conducted.
Notice the main image on the IRCE conference page:
• The image increases visitor trust by showing a large number of attendees.
• The text below the image focuses on the number of speakers and sessions (trust indicator and an offer feature).
What should you test with trust elements?
1. Test different statements and elements that increase visitor trust
2. Test location and placement of trust elements
3. Test copy vs. images of trust elements
While many website visitors prefer to conduct business online in complete anonymity, having live chat available for contact is a better option than forcing them to call your business. Several A/B tests reveal that adding live chat on some websites increases conversions by close to 12%. The guys from Monetate posted the following results of one of their clients:
“In the end, live chat was a winner. Version B, which included the chat widget, increased Average Order Value by 3 percent, earning our client over $20,000 during the duration of the test, and over $130,000 in projected annual revenue. Not bad for a little live chat widget.”
Remember that only a small percentage of your visitors will use the live chat feature (typically less than 3%). However, visitors who use the live chat are more likely to convert if you can answer their questions in a satisfactory manner. These visitors show a high level of motivation by clicking on the live chat and putting the effort to talk to your team.
To ensure live chat’s success:
• Certify it is staffed with the right person who is able to answer visitor questions in a proper manner. Keep in mind the challenge of international visitors who do not have full command of English.
• If you have enough resources, we recommend starting with live chat for 24 hours/day, 7 days a week. After collecting enough data, you can reduce live chat hours to specific times when there is high volume.
• Limit the fields you ask from the person before starting the live chat feature.
What should you test with live chat?
• The use of live chat vs. not using live chat
• The design of the live chat widget
• How fast does the live chat widget appear?
• The location of the live chat widget
• The text that appears on top of the live chat widget
• Time availability of the live chat widget
• The fields you require from visitors before starting the live chat
Reducing the number of form fields increases conversions. However, your staff would be better equipped with more information from the visitors.
We recommend starting with the list of fields that you must have from every contact. These will probably include a name and the best way to contact them. Additional information could easily be included on a second step form which the visitor can fill after submitting the initial form.
What should you test with your forms?
• Location of the form
• Design of the form
• Form headline
• Form sub-headline
• Number of fields in the form
• The design of the form CTA
• Privacy statement
Testimonials are powerful in persuading visitors that you are a credible business. The more testimonials you have, the better your conversion will be. On the other hand, anonymous testimonials or testimonials with a first name only don’t increase visitor trust in your business.
Testimonials should tell the visitor that you are a credible business and that doing business with you was an awesome experience to the point that a previous customer is willing to put his name publicly to thank you. If you have video testimonials, that will be even better.
Notice how we use a testimonial from one of our long-time customers to increase conversions. Not only are we publishing what the client says, but also adding the use of his business logo, 3M, to increase the buyer confidence and trust:
Notice how Salesforce uses testimonials to persuade visitors to sign up for its product:
Salesforce uses five different elements in designing a great testimonial:
1. Written testimonial from the customer
2. Title of the person who gave the testimonial
3. Video testimonial from the customer
4. Ability to view other testimonials from other customers
5. Emphasis on the company of the customer who gave the testimonial
What should you test with testimonials?
1. Written testimonials vs. video testimonials
2. Location of the testimonials
3. Design of the testimonials
4. Frequency of testimonials
5. One page testimonials vs. incorporating them into copy
Privacy and Security
We all come to expect a certain level of privacy and security as we navigate different websites and as we provide our information to them. However, emphasizing that you “value your customer privacy” and that you “will not share or sell their contact information” helps you increase visitor trust. The right place to do that is in close proximity to where you are asking the visitor for information (contact information, credit card, etc). In addition, in some instances, emphasizing the protection of customer data is critical, especially when there is news about data theft.
Notice how Salesforce understands the importance of privacy, but improperly places the privacy statement and security icons outside the contact form:
As bad as the Salesforce contact form might be, it is still light years better than the SAP contact form that leaves the visitor confused. It is almost as if SAP does not want you to contact them and you are left with the feeling that no one will respond to your contact request:
Notice how Macy’s places security icons in the payment section of the checkout. They simply are thrown there with little consideration for the visitor eye path:
What should you test with privacy and security?
1. Placement of the security icons
2. Placement of the privacy statement
3. Design of the security icons
4. Design of the privacy statement
Placement of business logo
Most companies do not pay close attention to where they place their logo. Over 80% of major e-commerce websites set their logo in the upper left-hand corner of the website. However, in some instances, the location of the logo impacts the overall conversion rate.
With point and click editors, this is a quick test that you can implement. While different placements might impact your conversion rate, the average uplift is less than 4%. So, consider testing three different locations for the logo: upper left corner, upper middle section and upper right section of the pages.
The hero image
The right image can persuade your visitor to convert. While few people will disagree on the importance of images in supporting the online sales process, figuring out the right image to use can be challenging. Invesp testing reveals that the right image can increase conversions by upwards of 10%.
As you select images for your landing page, consider the following:
• Value proposition: your image should convey and support the value proposition of your business, your service or your product. Your visitors should easily connect your VP with the image you are using.
• Continuity: Make sure that there is continuity in the images (color, placement, etc) from the first touch point a person has with your business on the landing page to other areas of your website.
• Quality: There is no good excuse for using low-quality images. Remember that your images say a lot about your business. Low-quality images leave the visitor with a negative connotation of your business.
• Uniqueness: When companies moved online 20 years ago, it was enough to get a high-quality stock photo and use it on the website. Visitors expect more nowadays. If you have the budget, hiring a professional photographer and designer to create unique images for your website is a huge plus.
What should you test with images?
You can test several items with images, including:
1. Should you use symbolic or literal images?
2. Should you use image of people or objects?
3. If people are included in the image, then how many?
4. If people are included in the image, where are they looking?
5. If people are included in the image, what is the state of mind (happy, serious, sad, etc)?
6. What is the mix of people appearing in an image?
7. In what location should you place the image?
8. Image size
9. Image color
Incentives are designed to encourage your visitors to take an action right away. As the name suggests, price-based incentives encourage visitors to take an action by offering a discount, freebie, or some sort of bundling.
The challenge is figuring out how many sales you will gain by offering a discount. If offering a 10% discount increase conversions by 20%, then this is a no-brainer. However, if offering the 10% discount increases sales by 5%, then you are getting more sales transactions but less revenue. Finding the right balance or the sweet spot is what your testing will have to focus on.
Notice how the category page from newegg.com uses price-based incentives to encourage visitors to act.
Newegg’ approach, however, presents two main problems:
• The design does not emphasize the lower pricing.
• There is no copy that asks visitors for immediate action.
The category page from Tigerdirect.com, a competitor of Newegg, does a better job:
• The discounted pricing is clear with the use of the red color.
• The copy of “save xxx instantly” emphasizes the price incentive.
Could you think of ways to improve the copy of TigerDirect?
What should you test with price-based incentives?
• The amount of discount you should offer
• The design of the discount
• The copy used for the discount
Urgency-based incentives rely on time limitations to encourage or incentivize visitors’ action right away. In this case, you set a deadline and you offer an incentive to visitors to act before the deadline.
PubCon is a must-attend conference for online marketing professionals. Just like other conferences, there is an early bird discount for early registration. Unfortunately, the registration page does not emphasize the discount and the time limitation:
Notice how Amazon uses urgency-based incentives to increase buyer conversion:
What can you test with urgency based incentives?
1. Actual deadline date
2. Urgency design
3. Urgency incentive copy
4. Placement of urgency incentive on different pages
Scarcity-based incentives rely on quantity limitations to incentive the visitor to act right away. Let’s take a couple of examples:
• If the visitor knows that the website has only two items left in stock, then he is more likely to act.
• If the visitor knows that a consulting firm can only one take one more client, then he is more likely to act.
Quantity limitations could be created/managed, by ordering lower quantities from suppliers, or naturally occurring, by visitors buying so many items that the product runs out. In either case, emphasizing the scarcity of an offer through copy and design can have a positive impact on conversions.
What should you test with scarcity based incentives?
1. The design of the scarcity incentive
2. The copy to express the scarcity incentive
3. The placement of the of the scarcity incentive
Subscription Model: Freemium Vs. Free Trial
Can you offer potential customers a free trial, a demo or evaluation version of your product?
The goal is to have a low-barrier entry for customers. In the fermium model, you offer your product for free with no time limit. Additional features of the products will be available at a price. Free trial model, on the other hand, offers the customer a free version of the software for a limited period.
Which model works for your business will depend on many factors, but you should definitely test this area.
What should you test with subscription model?
• Free trials vs. fermium model
• Length of free trial (14 days, 30 days, 60 days, etc)
You can use business guarantees to assure visitors that doing business with you is safe and they will not regret it. The goal of using guarantees is to reduce the customers’ risk. Of course, every transaction in business has some risk in it, so by reducing the customer’ risk, you will have to carry that burden.
A good guarantee requires both parties to invest in the transaction. The customer pays a certain amount (customer investment), and in return the business promises a 100% satisfaction guarantee.
There are different types of guarantees: satisfaction guarantees, performance guarantees, money back guarantees, etc. Follow these steps to determine the best guarantee you can offer in your business:
1. Ask your current and potential customers to list the top five concerns or obstacles they have about doing business with you or with your competitors.
2. Assess what your competitors are offering in terms of guarantees.
3. Determine your ability to offer a guarantee that will reduce one of the risks customers struggle with.
4. Determine the business risk of offering the guarantee.
5. Test different guarantees to see what resonates better with customers.
You can fill this table to help you assess your guarantee:
|Business risk||Impact on potential customers||Possible guarantee to deal with the risk||Guarantees offered by competitors to deal with this risk||Business risk in offering guarantee|
A strong guarantee has the following four elements in it:
• It is relevant to the customer’s highest risk
• It considerably reduces the customer’s risk
• It is specific
• It has a long period
The stronger each of these four elements is, the stronger the guarantee will be. Strong guarantees have a higher chance of converting customers.
Which do you think is more powerful:
• “30-days” vs. “60-days” vs. “one year guarantee”
• “Satisfaction guaranteed” vs. “100% Satisfaction guarantee”
• “100% Satisfaction guarantee” vs. “unconditional, no questions satisfaction guarantee for one year”
What should you test with guarantees?
• Different types of guarantee
• Design of the guarantee
• Time used with the guarantee
• Copy used to offer guarantee
• Placement of guarantee