Conversion Research (Part 1) — Review

The title of “Optimizer” can get thrown around pretty lightly these days. After just a few days in the CXL Institute’s online course in Conversion Rate Optimization, it became very clear how complex it truly is. How do we do it? How do we improve it? I’ve come across a lot of helpful tips as of late, and here are just a few of the highlights.

First of all, your personal opinions don’t matter. Facts or facts, and the sooner that’s recognized, the sooner you can get to properly optimizing your website.

The instructor says that conversion research can be narrowed down into 3 general categories:

  • Experience based assessment
  • Site walkthroughs
  • Heuristic analysis
  • Usability analysis
  • Qualitative research
  • Online surveys with recent customers
  • On-site polls
  • Phone interviews
  • Live chat transcripts
  • Customer support insight
  • User testing
  • Quantitative research
  • Web analytics analysis (e.g. Google Analytics and other quantified data tools like Adobe Analytics, KISSMetrics, MixPanel, Heap Analytics)
  • Mouse tracking analysis

The kind of data we need is:

Heuristic Analysis

We should start with understanding how the user views your website.

4 features to consider when you audit:

  1. Relevancy: Is this page meeting my user’s expectations when it comes to both content and design? If not, how can that be improved to better suit their expectations?
  2. Clarity: Is the content / offer stated very clearly? How can we simplify it?
  3. Value: Is this page offering genuine value to the user? How can we increase user motivation here?
  4. Friction: Is there anything that might cause doubts or hesitations on this page? Are there any points of friction that can be reduced? How can we simplify the process?
  5. Distraction: Are there any areas on the page that are causing distraction from the main goal? If it’s not motivation, it’s friction, and we must seek to minimize the source of it.

Technical Analysis

Next, we have to ensure that the website as a whole is running smoothly.

If there’s a broken link or the page is having glitches, they won’t want to buy from you. I know I’ve come across issues with adding products to my cart, and even when I really want something — if it’s not working after a bit of time, I’m out.

Digital Analytics

Using digital analytics tools is essential for identifying the holes in your site — holes where money is leaking out. Knowing how to set up identifiers will aid in the financial decrease.

Friction — When people are flowing through your website, going from page to page smoothly, at what point are they dropping out? Something is causing friction, and we want to understand what we can do to eliminate their reasons for leaving. Additionally, what types of behavior can we discover that correlates with purchases? The person buying more items might be searching for more things, using more filters to narrow down to a specific item.

Start Focusing On Heuristic Analysis

Placing your focus on heuristic analysis is the foundation you didn’t know you needed. It will help in familiarizing yourself with the site, as well as helping you map out the weaker areas that need assistance. What you discover here is great for determining what other places you need more data on.

Something you should also know up front is that everyone has a bias.

Bias blind spot is the tendency to see oneself as less biased than other people, or to be able to identify more cognitive biases in others than in oneself.

Confirmation bias is a tendency of people to favor information that confirms their beliefs.

CXL Analyzation

Here are the steps that the CXL instructor uses to thoroughly evaluate websites:

  • Assess each page for clarity — Is it undoubtedly clear and easy to understand? This is about more than the value proposition, because it applies to all of the pages (pricing, featured, product pages etc).
  • Understand context and evaluate page relevancy for visitors — is the page relevant to what the visitor thought they were going to see?
  • Assess incentives to take action — Is the money to value ratio appropriate? Is there some sort of believable urgency? What are the motivators for this page? Is there enough info on the product/service? Is the sales copy persuasive?
  • Evaluate all the sources of friction on the key pages. What areas are causing doubts? Are there difficult and long processes, not enough information, poor readability and UX, bad error validation, fears about privacy & security, uncertainties, unanswered questions?
  • Pay attention to distracting elements on every high priority page. Are there overwhelming blinking banners or automatic sliders dominating attention? An overabundance of information that isn’t directly related to the main call to action? Any elements that are not giving visitors reason to take desired action?
  • Understand buying phases and see if visitors are rushed into too big of a commitment too soon. Are there paths in place for visitors in different stages to promote transactions?

If you’re wondering what exactly users will consider sources of friction, I have a list here. There have been many times I’ve quit a website because of these very things!

  • Requesting sensitive or personal information. If it’s not needed, do not ask for their SSN, phone number, or any personal life questions.
  • Slow loading pages ( Google Analytics stats has a way to read speed optimization). No one wants to bother with a slow website, especially if they’re on mobile devices.
  • Difficult to find features or content. If they can’t find it fast, they’re not going to want it from you. Additionally, if the design of the website has a spammy feel, scammy or amateur, it’s a no-go.
  • Privacy and security concerns. Is it safe? Will it steal my information or give me a virus?
  • Cheesy & fake stock images. You can lose credibility if it doesn’t feel legit.
  • Complicated text. “If you treat people like idiots and/or try to seem smarter than you are, it will backfire.” Basically, don’t try to be a know-it-all.
  • Typos and poor grammar.
  • Usability issues.
  • Technical errors.
  • Low contrast between text and background colors, which leads to poor readability.

I loved the questions the instructor tells us to ask, because these can so easily be overlooked…

  • Does the headline match the page content?
  • Do call to action buttons match the value they’re going to get?
  • Are the images on the page relevant to the content?
  • If the user came from an external site (Google search, PPC, associated link etc), will they recognize that it’s a continuation of their journey?

Capturing Email

Email is simply the very best way to bring people back around and build a relationship with them. If you have their email, you need to put it through a lead nurturing process — so be prepared to launch a drop email campaign.

Once they’re in, they need to be nurtured. Build up a solid repor with them. Eventually, you’re going to have to ask for the sale, which is why you want to be on positive terms.

Usability Evaluation

Usability is about making your website easy to use. Users should be able to browse without much thought or effort. ”Usability is the black horse of boosting conversions.” — That is a serious statement! If your site is difficult to use or hard to understand (A.K.A. it has usability problems), it will lead to poor, limited, and even failed conversions.

If you want to increase conversions, you can’t just say “everyone is my target audience,” because… well, you’re not going to get very far. In order to optimize your transactions, you have to figure out who exactly is your primary target audience. What do they want, what are sources of friction for them, and how can your product/service solve their problems.

Qualitative research is learning who your customers are, what they want, and what “language” they use. To properly copywrite, you must understand each of these aspects, as well as points of friction for them.

Conversions are linked to relevancy. Gaining a customer is having what you’re offering and what you’re presenting reflect their state of mind. This is why you want to narrow down your exact target audience, because as the instructor states: Nobody will identify with “everybody.”

Who & How Many To Survey

Survey people who still have a fresh memory of their purchase and whatever friction they may have experienced during the transaction process. Only talk to your recent first-time customers. These people have no previous experience with your company and that might give a more honest response.

CXL recommends surveying between 100–200 people for a more accurate representation. After 200, the answers tend to get repetitive. Keep in mind that this is a qualitative survey, not quantitative — like opinion poll. If there’s less than 100, you’re unlikely to get the sum of results you’re looking for. Remember that 10 is better than 0 responses, so if you’re short on recent buyers, then work with what you have at the moment.

The instructor believes that the best results is a survey consisting of 7–10 questions. Less than 7 is not going to be enough information, and more than 10 will lose your participants’ interest.

Is the collectable information actionable? Forget about questions you’re “just curious” about and stick to ones that are going to truly help your business. Additionally, stay neutral on the tone of your questions. You don’t want to lead your guests into thinking or feeling a certain way — do everything to ensure you’re getting organic responses.

Narrow Out Multiple Choices

Do your best to get free-form answers. The customers should feel that they can express their thoughts without boundaries, such as multiple choice, which leaves them with fewer chances to fully express. The goal is to get useful feedback, not just create a directionless survey.

Pressure & Incentivize

A survey that is sent out with some time pressure on it nudges the customers to get it done. If you give them only 3 days to respond to get that reward, you get your data faster. It doesn’t have to always cost you — remember the free downloads!


1. Goals

We are striving to discover more about our consumers.

2. Initial Review

This is where you look at the responses individually. Break down each question.

3. Codification

Review each code from your list and attach the codes to as many responses as possible. Categorizing the people is a significant part of the data.

4. Data Interpretation

  • What patterns in the data stand out?
  • List out any hypothetical personas you can come up with, based on your information.
  • Count the number of responses per code you have. Prioritize the issues based on the level of importance.

5. Summary report

Keep track of your key learnings. Sometimes we think we’ll remember something, but often forget — write it down! It is essential for the growth of your team and clients.



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