Stop for a second and ask yourself a really simple question: What’s the purpose of my website?

Once you have an answer, the next question is: Is my site successfully achieving its purpose?

Regardless of whether you said yes or no, the real answer should be it could be doing better. Getting this to happen requires making changes to your site based off conversion rate optimization (CRO) tests.

I’ll discuss the ins and outs of CRO testing in my next blog, but for now I want to start on the ground floor with how to redesign your website to improve your conversion rate. I’m not advocating that you must immediately go out and talk to your developer about coming up with a new look strictly for the purpose of improving conversions. But if a redesign is on your plate of things to do, then building around CRO is essential.

Your Baseline Current Conversion Rate

How you come up with a baseline conversion rate depends on the purpose and functionality of your website. For example, conversions for an e-commerce site will be different than those for a service-based company. Regardless of the nature of your site, it’s important to identify what you consider a conversion and start recording them.

To do this, Google Analytics offers a free feature that tracks goals based on page flow. Tracking in this manner serves as a good starting point if you want follow trends for people emailing questions or business leads.

A separate feature in Google Analytics deals with e-commerce tracking. This service tracks the number of products you sell on your site, in the form of product and sales performance.

Getting an Idea of Visitor Interaction

I always recommend using your existing website as the starting point for determining what is and isn’t working. The reason being, you need to know how your users are interacting with your high-level pages before deciding which elements stay and go, or where they should be placed in the new design.

Often, website owners have preconceived ideas about the importance of certain elements on their site because they “know” it’s useful to users or promotes the business. Take out the guess work and get a true picture of how your site is performing by using a heat mapping program like CrazyEgg. (Note: CrazyEgg is a paid service and since it’s the program I’m most familiar with I’ll be going into detail about its features. If you find another program that works well for you, then by all means use it. If you want a free solution you can use Google Analytics and review their tracking program found in Content > In-Page Analytics.)

CrazyEgg tracks unique user click and scrolling data on select pages and assesses, in no uncertain terms, the successful and unsuccessful elements of your site. This is done by analyzing the following data sets:

  • Heat mapping: This paints an overall picture of where people click on your site and uses a color gradient to display hot and cold items. There aren’t numbers associated with this report, only color patterns depicting popular elements on the page.
  • Confetti: This report tracks individual clicks on your site and color codes them based on referring sites. This is useful because it demonstrates precisely where people are clicking. It can let you know if visitors are clicking on an element that might not be clickable or if they prefer to click on a specific element of a link.
  • Scroll Map: The name says it all. This displays a color gradient down your page showing the percentage of visitors who see that part of the page. It provides a clear image of important calls to action that are not being seen by a majority of your visitors.
  • Overlay: The overlay report sums up the confetti report, providing the number of clicks an element received compared to the rest of the page.

Implementation and CRO Testing

Armed with the data you receive in heat mapping reports, you should have a clearer picture of which elements visitors find useful and general locations for your conversion callouts. Your new look should center on providing people with the content they want and driving conversions. Once your site’s new look is up on the web, the real work begins–this is when you implement a monthly CRO testing campaign and work to maximize the value of every visit.

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