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UX and CRO

UX and CRO

Essential CRO Audit That Doesn’t Need A-B testing

fogg

With traffic of all types (SEO, PPC and referrals) becoming more expensive and difficult to get, conversion rate optimization is becoming more important than ever. Doubling website traffic is becoming way more expensive than doubling conversion rate, and both of them can lead to the same objective which is more sales or leads.

CRO is defined as: “Conversion rate optimization seeks to increase the percentage of website visitors that take a specific action (often submitting a web form, making a purchase, signing up for a trial, etc.)”, this could be done by applying human behavior principles to website elements and methodically testing alternate versions of a page or process to find which version generates the best results. In doing so, businesses are able to generate more leads or sales without spending more money on website traffic, that will result in increasing their marketing return on investment and overall profitability.

Human Behavior:

It is very important to understand that big part of CRO is understanding human behaviour and what signals or triggers lead humans to take certain actions. Fogg behaviour model is one of the most popular models that can help us a lot to understand how humans take actions, see the chart below:

fogg

The model in a nutshell suggests that humans likelihood to take a certain action rely heavily on the motivation and the difficulty of taking that action.

Core motivations:

  • Pleasure / pain
  • Hope / fear
  • Social acceptance / rejection

Ability Variables:

  • Time, does it take a long time? Does it worth my time.
  • Money, can I afford it? Does it worth it?
  • Physical effort, do I need to leave my house to do it?
  • Non-routine, can I do this my usual way?

So when optimizing a website for a better conversion rate make sure any improvements you make can either:

  • Increase users motivation to take an action.
  • Make it easy for users to take an action.

There is another model that you can have a look at called the Lift Model.

Conversion Tracking Setup:

“If you can not measure it, you can not improve it”, deciding the right KPIs and setting up goals (possibly events also) to track them is vital for CRO, having an analytics software (i.e. Google Analytics) installed on the website is a must in order to set up goals to track the KPIs. Try to track as many actions as possible, tracking is not retroactive in Google Analytics, it is better to have more than less. Divide the goals into hard and soft goals.
The KPIs that could be measured are almost infinite, here’s a list of the most popular KPIs to track on a website:

  • Form submissions.
  • Cart abandonment rate.
  • Checkout conversions.
  • Traffic to sales pages.
  • Unique visitors.
  • Returning visitors.
  • Scroll depth.
  • Time on page.
  • Phone calls.
  • Funnels.
  • Form dropoff.

Many of the KPIs above are tracked by default in Google Analytics, however there are many others that need to be manually set up.

Have a KPI discussion with the client and understand their business model, based on that create a list of hard and soft goals that need to be tracked.

How to start a CRO audit:

A CRO audit relies heavily on studying user behaviour then making changes to web assets then finding if those changes improved conversion rate, the best tools that can help with that are:

  • Mouse tracking (could be done using Hotjar)
  • User journey tracking (Could be done using Google Analytics)
  • A-B testing (could be done using Google Optimizer)

The three tools above are not easy nor cheap to run, if you are facing a low budget situation the only way to do CRO is what I call “CRO Fundamentals Audit” which is simply running the website against a check list of CRO fundamentals >> then evaluate the website against each of them >> then make recommendations.

In this post I will provide you with a step by step guide to check the CRO fundamentals and create an essential CRO audit.

Essential CRO Audit  – Sep by step:

This guide will assume that Google analytics is installed with a long enough history of goal tracking (soft goals and hard goals). Based on the most popular human behaviour models I created a checklist of 13 items that influence users ability and motivation to be checked and evaluated:

  1. Site speed.
  2. Conventions and standards of  web design.
  3. First impression (production quality and relevancy).
  4. Page layout, Clarity of headlines (people scan do not read), sublines and bullet points.
  5. Navigation and website hierarchy clarity, breadcrumbs and internal search.
  6. Images analysis (consistent with the website message and offering).
  7. CTA and distraction.
  8. Trust elements and security (legitimacy of the company and trust).
  9. Remove fear (30 days money back guarantee).
  10. User generated reviews and testimonial (social proof).
  11. Users analysis.
  12. Sense of reciprocity (free content).
  13. Forms.
  14. Maximizing users value (exit-intent popup windows, chat and chatbot).

Step 1 – Site speed:

There is no shortage of studies that show how faster websites will enjoy better conversion rate (in some cases 3X better than slow websites), and a lower bounce rate. You can read this post to find what tools to use to evaluate website speed. A 3 seconds or less speed index is considered to be good.

Step 2 – Standards of  web design:

Standards and conventions of web design are a set of best practices that are followed by majority of websites on the web. Those best practices gradually become guidelines that most web designers follow, knowing that they align with visitors’ expectations. Examples of those standards:

  • Logo in the header (top left corner).
  • Main navigation is in the header.
  • Value proposition is at the top (above the fold).
  • Call to action is located above the fold.
  • Search box is in the header.
  • Contact us page is included in the upper navigation.
  • The design should fit any device especially mobile devices.

In this step just make sure the design follows the standards of web design as much as possible.

Step 3 – First impression:

Visual appeal can be assessed within 50 ms, suggesting that web designers have about 50 ms to make a good first impression, this first impression depends on many factors:

  • Structure
  • Colors
  • Spacing
  • Symmetry
  • Amount of text, fonts, and more

It is very difficult to assess your own website in an unbiased way, you can setup a 5 seconds test asking a question like “What is your first impression about this website”.

It is very important to understand users entry points to each landing page and make sure the messaging on the landing page is in alignment with that entry point, here are few different scenarios/examples:

  • If you are running a TV ad you need to make sure users that are coming from this ad land on a page that is consistent with the messaging in the ad.
  • Running a PPC campaign with a broad match can drive traffic from keywords that do not match the messaging on the page.
  • Google can rank pages organically for keywords that do not really match the messaging on the page, those pages need to be adjusted or new pages need to be created.

Step 4 – Page Layout and clarity of headlines:

People scan (do not read) in most cases, they need to find information quickly with less efforts. A good page layout (with the characteristics below) can help a lot with that:

  • A clear strong headings/headlines must be used and placed at the top of the page, a strong headline on the homepage is critical to validate that the user is in the right place.
  • Break down extraneous blocks of text into separate paragraphs.
  • Breakdown text walls into paragraphs, lists, or even segments with appended / additional headings.

Step 5 – Navigation and website hierarchy:

At any point of time a user should be able to tell their location (which page) and how to go back to the previous page, a breadcrumb can be very helpful for that. The upper navigation should be well-thought-out and provides users with a quick access to the most important information/products/solutions the site provides. Site search is recommended (placed at the top in a clear box, with a magnifying glass icon, with autocomplete and common spelling error support), it helps in situations where a user could not find the information they are looking for using internal linking or the navigational system.

Step 6 – Images analysis:

“A picture is worth a thousand words”, images can improve conversion rate and support the story told by the text content, images also are big part of the brand identity. Few points to consider while evaluating if images can improve conversions or not:

  • Clear and tell a story.
  • Text is easy to read inside the image.
  • They support the product or the service offered on the website.
  • They evoke emotions.
  • They help clarifying a confusing concept.
  • They are original and look professional with a high quality (no stock photos).

Background images can work better with a colourful overlay that matches brand colours, which will reduce brightness and complexity for the image, for text that will come at the top of a background image use solid background container.

Step 7 – CTA and distraction:

Key-points when designing and placing a CTA:

  • Make it visible (above the fold or close to triggers)
  • Make it clear that it is clickable (frame it with a shade) and include actionable text in it like “buy now” or “read more”.
  • Respect human attention ratio, do not place too many CTAs on a page and get them to compete with each others.

Step 8 – Trust elements and security:

Unless you are a big brand there is a good chance that first time visitors do not know you yet so you need to increase their trust level, and decrease their anxiety which could be preventing them taking the actions you want them to take, here are few elements that you can include on the website to address that:

  • Media mentions (i.e. as seen on CNN, you can include a logo with a link to reference your media mention).
  • Awards and achievements.
  • Partnerships.
  • Case studies and surveys.
  • Client lists with their logos.
  • Security badges (work well for shopping carts).

Step 9 – Remove fear:

Remove fear by using guarantees/security seals: Survey your customers for their pre-purchase concerns then formulate guarantees which pre-empt these concerns. Possible messages that can help to remove fear:

  • 30-day product guarantee.
  • Same day shipping.
  • Lowest price guaranteed.
  • Largest range of products.
  • No contracts cancel anytime.
  • Include the services or the products prices clearly where possible (in other words avoid the request a quote button).

Step 10 – User generated reviews and testimonial (social proof):

Social proof is an important part of CRO, customers buy products that make them feel good about themselves, products that change them and make them better, social proof will help customers to make a decision, feel confident about their choice and feel a part of something bigger. Popular forms of social proof:

  • Testimonials.
  • User gendered reviews.
  • Social media widgets.
  • Data/numbers “X customers served” “Y projects completed”.

Step 11 – Users analysis:

Understanding the website demographics and user persona can help a lot with:

  • Improve messaging.
  • Identify needed shifts.
  • Flag technology needs.
  • Adjust PPC campaigns audience settings.

Step 12 – Sense of reciprocity:

Creating sense or reciprocity is a good way to improve conversion rate, it could be done in many different ways:

  • Free ebook.
  • Free consultation.
  • Free tutorial.
  • First month free no credit card required.

Step 13 – Forms:

Forms should:

  • Be as short as possible, long forms could be split into multiple pages.
  • Field labels must be clear and explain what information should go in each field.
  • Support auto filling.
  • Work well on mobile devices.
  • Fields with validation must show a clear message how to be corrected if filled wrong.

It is recommend to track form dropoff count for each field using tools like Hotjar and tweak the form based on the collected data.

Step 14 -Maximizing users value:

Offering users more help using online chat and chat bots is proved to improve conversion rate. Intercepting users that are exiting the website with a popup window giving them an offer or asking them to subscribe to the news letter can also improve conversion rate.

 

The 13 checking points above should help you to conduct an essential CRO audit without doing any A-B testing, if resources are limited this type of audits will be still helpful until you have enough resources to invest in a contentious A-B testing program.

 

 

UX and CRO

User experience Conversion Rate and CTR Optimization

Conversion rate optimization (CRO), UX and CTR optimization could be considered  part of SEO now. SEOs are supposed to optimize websites to score well based on known ranking factors (Google uses 200+ of them but few of them are known to SEOs), but do search engines have any ranking factors related to CTR, CRO and UX? In the early days of search engines they did not use any user experience related ranking factors, but that has changed in the recent years, the ones that Google admitted using as ranking factors (with small impact or results) are:

  • Website speed
  • Secure websites
  • Mobile fist index (they want to understand user experience with mobile phones especially above the fold area)

Let us remember also that Google bot has evolved a lot now, it can crawl, parse and render pages with better understanding of the layout (e.g. what content is above the fold, what is visible to users on the first load and what is not), understanding user experience on websites is becoming a high priority for Google especially in the mobile era where it is difficult to create a good user experience considering the limited screen space available for developers. The other looming question is whether Google going to use the user experience data available for them as ranking factors in the future if they are not already using them, Google owns :

  • The most popular browser on the web (Chrome)
  • The most popular email service (GMAIL)
  • Cookies on almost every website on the web (Via Google Analytics, YouTube and more)

They can go beyond link profile and on-page SEO analysis to find quality websites, there are too many user experience signals available for Google now that they can use as ranking factors.

To make it clear here I am not asking you to be a UX expert, you just need to gain enough knowledge to cover the basics. There are four types of UX optimization that you can do and they have different level of difficulties and time requirements, I will walk you through all of them one by one and you can choose what to apply for each project depending on the needs and the available budget:

  • Web design standards and convention of the web
  • Experimental (using A-B tests and multivariate testing)
  • Data driven
  • User feedback driven

Web design standards and convention of the web

People visit 5-7 websites/day on average, most website follow very similar standards that become expected by most users when they visit a new website, some of them are:

  • A logo on the left upper corner of the page that you can click on to take you to the home page
  • Upper navigation menu in the header of the page, in most cases it has a contact us page
  • A slider or a page wide image at the top is becoming popular in modern design
  • A phone number placed in the header and the footer of the website and social media profiles linked from header or footer
  • Websites should adapt to all device sizes (responsive design)
  • A call to action is expected in the header area of the website (read more, get a quote etc)
  • The message has to be loud and clear above the fold (marketing message, company vision, summary of the service)

By checking a website design against the conventions of web design you will be able to come up with few recommendations to improve user experience

Experimental A-B testing and multivariate testing

You can provide users with two different copies of the page (multivariate testing where the difference between the pages is not significant) using technologies like Google optimizer or even two significantly different pages (A-B testing), after you have enough data available you can find out the winning version (the one with less bounce rate and better conversion rate) and use it on the website.

Landing pages services like Unbounce and Instapage are offering similar services now

Please note that you need a significant amount of traffic and conversions in order for those tests to give you trusted results which is not available small websites with few conversions/week. For small websites you need to follow the conversion rate best practices (e.g. a prominent call to action) and convention on the web when doing CRO

Data driven:

Technology can provide us with many user behaviour signals without users even knowing that we are doing that (we still have to respect users privacy), few examples for that:

  • Mouse movement tracking, you can use CrazyEgg, HotJar or a free service like HeatMap, once you have enough data you should be able to restructure the page to make it more effective for users
  • GA (Google Analytics) a good starting point is analyzing pages with a high bounce rate, in most cases this is a signal that users are not finding what they are looking for quickly. Find the top keywords that drive traffic to those pages and make sure that users are getting their questions answered quickly without taking any extra actions like scrolling down or clicking on a tab or a button
  • Landing pages with low conversion rate should be analyzed and re-optimized, low conversion rate could be a result of a poorly structured page, it could be also a signal of low trust due to lacking of social proof, adding partner and awards badges, clients or users testimonial could be helpful.
  • Slow loading pages which could be found in GA present an opportunity for improvement. Reducing web page speed will have a positive impact on conversion rate
  • Low CTR (click through rate) in SERP (search engine result page), this data is available in GSC (Google Search Console), when CTR is low it could be a signal that your content is not relevant enough for that search query or the text snippet that is used by search engines is not good enough, always make sure that title tags and description tags are enticing for users to click, if Google is picking the SERP snippets from another section in the page optimize that text to make more relevant for the target keyword and more attractive for users to click.

There are many other data sources where you can find user behavior signals that you can use to optimize your website for a better user experience and eventually better ranking with search engines

User  feedback based:

Surveying website users asking them general questions what do they think about the website or what changes they like to see is a very effective usability improvement tactic, this could be done using services like 5 seconds testing or any other similar testing services where you upload a screen shot of a website and ask people see it for 5 seconds before answering few questions like:

  • What services do this website offer?
  • What phrases or words do you remember from the website?
  • What do you think about the design of the website?

There many solutions to conduct a scurvy on a website depending on the CMS your are using, some solutions that rely on JavaScript embedded codes can work almost on any website, Getsitecontrol is an example for that.

Trust:

I tried my best not to tab into marketing while taking user experience and conversion rate but that is really difficult, you can create the best landing page on the web but it will still convert less than poorly designed landing page if it will not be trusted by users. Think about a bank like Royal Bank offering wealth management service and Joe the Financial adviser offering the same service, even with Joe having a very well optimized landing page and offer the same services for a lower price Royal Bank will have a better chance to convert, here are few tips to over come that:

  • Be a brand, create a nice logo and user it consistently, design a professional website, pick clours and fonts for your brand and user them on all marketing material. Advertise on different channels especially community events.
  • Use social proof signals like user testimonials, case studies, stats and award winning and mention badges (e.g. as seen as Toronto Star)
  • Offer quick communication options like online chat

Finally even if search engines will not use more user experience signals as ranking factors in the future, providing a good user experience should be always a priority. User experience can even affect other areas of SEO like attracting link, do people link to websites where they had a bad user experience with? The answer is no.

Next step: tracking and Analytics

Technical SEO Tracking & Analytics Uncategorized UX and CRO

Best Tools to Evaluate Website Speed

When it comes to measuring website speed I recommend:

1- Testing the home page + few other key pages from the website

2- Test in different times of the days and different days of the week

3- Test using more than one tool (two at least)

Web Page Test:

Available form multiple locations, multiple devices and using different internet speed, provides speed index (the time required for the site to visually load for users even if there is still process going in the background of the website)

This tool provides insights how to speed up the website, a report, and a video showing the load progress.

Google Speed Insight:

The tool has become more valuable after adding Light House data and Google Chrome data (not available for every website), be aware that score is not speed, speed is measured by seconds only, seeing very low score does matter a lot of your web page speed is 3 seconds or less

This tool provides insights how to speed up the website, a report, a video showing the load progress and industry comparison.

GTmetrix

Available form multiple locations, multiple devices and using different internet speed, this tool can track speed history (paid feature) which is a handy feature to evaluate the website speed though out the whole day or the whole week

This tool provides insights how to speed up the website, a report, a video showing the load progress

Test my Site By Google

This tool is designed to analyze speed on mobile websites with low speed connection (3G), it provides insights how to speed up the website, a report and industry comparison

Google Developer Tools (Advanced)

This is a built in extension with Google Chrome, it has the ability to change connection speed, device, disable/enable cache.

 

Google Analytics (the numbers there are not very reliable)

GA provides average page load time in seconds, I did it find it that reliable, possibility because it averages number from different users and it works based on the code load completion which is not always a reflection of the actuation page load

Off Page SEO On Page SEO Technical SEO Uncategorized UX and CRO

SEO Training Courses and Conferences

The SEO certificates post includes a lot of learning resources as all the certificates require you to go through some training before you can take the exam. If you want a faster rout in a case where you applying a job that needs some SEO knowledge (not an SEO specialist job) you can find many online resources that cover the SEO fundamentals and give you a good jump start in your SEO knowledge

Search Engine Optimization starter guide (by Google) this should be the first document your read, it covers the basics of on-page and technical SEO

Google Quality Guidelines this is very important one to read especially if you are planning to be aggressive in your link building efforts

Google Quality Raters Guidelines Google uses quality raters (humans) to evaluate their search results so their engineers can improve them, what we learned about Google’s logarithm throughout the years that it will always try to replicate human quality judgment, reading this document will give you an idea where is Google’s algorithm going in the future

SEO Learning Center (by Moz) similar to Google’s starter guide

Google Best Practice (mainly for ads) this is Google’s best practice document for ads, quality guidelines for ads apply in most cases to SEO which makes this document worthy to read even for SEO specialists

Conferences to attend:

Going to conferences to learn SEO is not going to give you the best ROI however; going there to network and meet new people is the investment you should be looking for

Another benefit of going to those conferences is the status and the credibility it gives you with your clients (especially the big ones), major search engines like Google send speakers to many of those conferences so you will have a chance to hear from the horse’s mouth, then you can communicate your SEO recommendations with your clients saying I heard Google saying this at SMX Advance for example.

Off Page SEO On Page SEO Technical SEO Tracking & Analytics UX and CRO

Tools That You Need To Master If You Want to Be an SEO Expert

There are some tools and platforms that you need to master if you want to be an SEO expert, some of these tools are used for monitoring and tracking others are used to make your work more efficient. Some of those tools will be required for the SEO specialist role and employers ask for them in the job posting.

Google Search Console GSC (Bing also has its own):

This tool has been growing for years and becoming the most important tool for SEO specialists. Why GSC is that important?

  1. This is only place where you can see what keywords are receiving impressions, clicks, CTR and where do they rank
  2. The message centre is a great communication tool that Google uses to tell webmasters about issues and improvements for their websites
  3. The index coverage and crawlability information contain very valuable insights that will help webmasters to understand how Google crawls and index their websites
  4. A sample of back links is available in GSC

A dedicated post related to Google Search Console will be posted soon I will make sure I link to it form this post

Google Analytics (GA):

“If you can not measure it, you can not improve it.”, GA is the tool when it comes to track traffic sources and users’ interaction with a website. Key things you need to know how to do in GA:

  1.  Setup goals and track goals per source
  2.  Understand and analyze bounce rate, time on site and pages per session
  3.  Analyze traffic by medium/source
  4.  Attribution models
  5.  Reporting on conversions

It is strongly recommend to be Google Analytics certified by passing the Google Analytics Individual Qualification (IQ) test

Google My Business:

Things you need to learn:

  • How to submit and edit a business
  • How to monitor users interactions like reviews and phone calls
  • How to tag the URL using utm tags so you can identify GMB traffic in GA

Link analysis tools:

Those tools will enable you to analyze the link profile of any website, the most popular usage of those tools is creating competition analysis reports that help to understand the authority gap between your website and other competitors, the most popular ones are:

All of the tools above are paid, buying one of them only could be suffice

Keyword research Tools:

Learning about the client’s business then finding relevant keywords to that business is the starting point for any SEO project, there are many tools that can help with that and all of them are using Google’s database:

  • SEMrush
  • Ahrefs
  • MOZ
  • Google Keyword planner

Website speed tools:

Website speed is a ranking factor with Google, more importantly it can improve user experience and eventually increase conversion rate. It is important to monitor website speed on a regular basis and the best tools that can help with that are:

  1.  Web page test
  2.  GT metrix (I like their speed monitoring service)
  3.  Google Speed test
  4.  Think with Google speed test
  5.  Google Analytics  (the numbers there are not very reliable)

Mobile friendliness tools:

Mobile users have surpassed desktop users a long time ago and Google is following that trend by focusing more on mobile users, Google bot desktop is being replaced by Google mobile crawler for the most of mobile ready websites. Having a mobile friendly website that is fast and provides a good user experience is key for SEO success, tools that can help with improving mobile friendliness are:

Structured data tools:

Major search engines use structured data (Schema is the most popular one) to have better understanding of the content structure as structured data can provide content in a database friendly format (almost ready to save to a database without processing), once structured data is added to a website there are many tools that can help to preview them and test them for errors:

Crawlability tools:

The first step any search engine needs to do is crawling the web, if the content is not crawlable or reachable (via a link or a sitemap) then search engines will not find it, index it and rank it. Best tools to find about crawlability issues:

 

The ability to gain experience and feeling comfortable to use the tools listed on this pages will help you in many ways:

  • Your next job interview if you are interviewing for an SEO job
  • Monitoring key metrics like ranking, traffic, links, errors and more
  • Generating client reports
  • Doing keywords content analysis
  • Providing clients with useful insights and actionable recommendations