When it comes to website optimization (the art, and sometimes science, of improving website performance and increasing conversion rates), I often get asked the question, “where do I start?” There are seemingly countless ways to improve your website, but as always, limited time and resources. When done right, the website optimization process can be relatively painless, and bring about significant gains in conversion rates and revenue.
The tips below outline 5 must-try optimization methods, coupled with 10 fast and affordable tools and services to get you started.
Focus your efforts on the right problems
It may seem obvious which pages on your website need the most attention and TLC (e.g. homepage, pricing), but in some cases it’s not. Without taking a look in analytics, you might be overlooking a page on your site that is confusing visitors or leaking traffic.
In the screen below, I’m using the Google Analytics Top Content report and sorting by % Exit. I’ve used filters to exclude pages with low pageviews, as well as a feature called “Weighted Sort”, which gives me a clean, prioritized list of pages to attack.
Recommended Analytics Tools
- Google Analytics – The best free web analytics tool out there. More bells and whistles than you’ll ever use, but another great product from Google.
- KISSmetrics – A new approach to web analytics that “tracks people, not pageviews”. KISS helps users segment customers and build visual funnels.
Get feedback from independent professionals
After a while, it can be hard to generate new ideas for your website. You’re often too close to the project, and unable to identify the obstacles to conversion. Recruiting outside, objective evaluators who can offer specific recommendations can be an effective way to get a fresh, independent perspective.
If you have a solid network, you can try soliciting feedback via e-mail, Twitter or other social networks, but there is rarely a good substitute for a professional evaluation. An expert website evaluation service like ConceptFeedback.com, provides a detailed, actionable report within 48 hours (see quote from sample report). Evaluations are also completed using custom developed written and visual feedback tools, which make it easy to organize and prioritize recommendations.
Recommended Professional Feedback Tools
- Concept Feedback – Quick, actionable website feedback from a hand-selected panel of experts in design, usability, and strategy.
- User Testing – A video of a visitor speaking their thoughts as they use your website, along with a written summary for $39 per user.
Start a dialogue with your visitors and customers
It may sound obvious, but why not ask your customers and prospects for feedback? While they may not be able to provide the level of specificity that an expert might offer, they have a pulse on your company and your industry. If you approach customers in the right way, they can often help you identify areas of your website that need improvement or clarification.
Recommended Customer Feedback Tools
- 4Q Survey – 4Q is a free pop-up survey which helps you determine whether or not visitors are able to complete their intended task on your website.
- Flash Feedback – A small widget placed in the bottom corner of each page on your website which allows you to collect page-specific feedback on your website (see sample form above).
Leverage affordable, remote user testing services
Watching real users navigate your website is always an eye-opening experience, and something you no longer have an excuse not to do. Steve Krug’s “10 cents a day” method (download the PDF) is dirt cheap user testing for companies and entrepreneurs on a strict budget (like $0.50 a week). Or, if you prefer not to leave the comfort of your home or cubicle, you can try out a remote testing service which will do the legwork for you.
Recommended User Testing Tools
- ClickTale – A ‘customer experience analytics’ tool which offers visitor recordings, heatmaps, form and funnel analysis and more (see screenshot above).
- GazeHawk – Eye tracking, heatmaps, video and personalized recommendations for $49 per user.
Always be testing!
You can generate new ideas and make changes to your website until you’re blue in the face, but without a good testing tool, you’re on an endless, fruitless journey. Fortunately, the tools available for split testing multiple web page variations are only getting more abundant and easier to use.
Before you release a conversion-oriented update to any page on your website, make sure a split test is in place. While you hope the changes you decided to make will increase conversion rates, this isn’t always the case. The only way to know for sure is to run a split test and obtain statistically valid results.
Recommended Split Testing Tools
- Visual Website Optimizer – Quickly create multiple variations of a web page using a drag-and-drop editor, and keep tweaking until you find a winner.
- Google Website Optimizer – A free split testing tool from Google that can handle A/B and multivariate tests (see screenshot above).
With the right approach and proper tools, the daunting task of website and conversion rate optimization can become manageable. If you’re already doing all of these things, congratulations, you’re way ahead of the game! If not, take it slow, and try something new each week. Increasing conversion rates is marathon, not a sprint.
If there are methods or tools I overlooked (and I most certainly did), please let everyone know in the comments.