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Interview with the Founders of Conversion Rate Experts

In this post we interview Dr. Karl Blanks and Ben Jesson, co-founders of Conversion Rate Experts. As an international agency, Conversion Rate Experts specializes in getting strong, measurable conversion improvements for businesses that are already successful. Clientele includes companies such as Apple, Sony, Google, Vodafone, SEOmoz, and SEOBook, among many others. In the following paragraphs are some of the questions we posed to them along with their informative and expert answers. Happy reading!

Q: We frequently see “quick tips” and “Top 10 Lists” all over the Internet on improving websites and optimizing conversion. What is your take on these promises of easy paths to high conversion rates?

A: They’re worse than useless—they can be downright destructive. Consider the business owners who stumble upon the “magic submit button” design or headline formula that’s touted to be a sure thing. They try the idea and it falls short of their expectations. Often they become negative about the whole idea of testing and measurement, because they rightly state that “I tested all sorts of things and nothing ever worked.” It’s a valid statement that their tests did not work, but an invalid conclusion that therefore testing and measurement are useless.

Q: So are you saying the tips and lists are invalid for everyone?

A: No, we’re not saying that. It’s just that such tips are superficial prescriptions for situations where no one has spent the time to diagnose the actual problem in the first place. Can we say that aspirin, heart medicine, and chemotherapy are all effective treatments? Yes. But without first determining which patient has what problem, you stand a good chance of killing your patients. It’s true that diagnosing the problem does take some time and is not nearly as appealing as applying a handy “Top 10” solution—but we’ve found that the real fun happens when you get measurable improvements to your profits, so it’s well worth the effort to build a factual foundation first. We’ve written several reports on how to diagnose conversion problems, and they’re available for free via this link.

Q: How do customer feedback solutions (such as Kampyle’s) directly or indirectly impact conversion rates?

A: We hope you don’t mind if we’re very blunt: Kampyle is worthless if a company installs it, gathers feedback, and does nothing with it. Our own company is also worthless to a client who implements none of our advice. So in that sense there is no direct impact on conversion rates. But for the customer who installs Kampyle and acts on the visitor intelligence, conversion improvements can go sky high. One of our clients – a multimillion-dollar company – grew its sales by 35% immediately after installing Kampyle, simply by acting on the feedback that the majority of its visitors were giving.

Q: Your work with clients has shown that the perception that “long web pages don’t sell” is incorrect and that people will continue scrolling down and reading, provided that the material is interesting.

Based on this, you encourage businesses to write as much as they need to explain their product or service. Do you have any tips on making material–even if long–more interesting to read? Are videos or infographics better options than written material for getting a message across?

A: There’s no such thing as text that’s too long–only text that’s too boring. By the way, the same rule applies to video and infographics. If visitors are interested in what you have to say, they’ll happily read or watch, and probably search for even more material on your site. Just think back to the rare occasions when you were delighted to discover a site that provided exactly what you were looking for.

The first key to becoming that sort of site is to segment your visitors. If you own a travel site, then it would be a big mistake to address all your customers as if they were one big blob. Business travelers are definitely different from honeymooners, who in turn differ from students studying abroad.

The second key is to avoid boring, passive language. Businesses often are breeding grounds for stuffy, depersonalized, jargon-filled text. Take a machete to all instances of, “We’re a leading provider of”, or “our revolutionary new”, or “cutting-edge solutions.” These all are about as meaningful as being put on indefinite hold while hearing “Your call is important to us.” Instead, speak the way humans interact with each other, face to face. The lawyers and English majors in your organization will have a fit; just smile, nod politely, and ignore them. Another key is to avoid long blocks of text. People make an unconscious, instant evaluation of text, and if it looks like it will be a lot of work to get through a page, most people will avoid it. The beauty of using Kampyle is you can discover what visitors find confusing or interesting on each page of your site and you can adjust your message accordingly.

Q: When gathering feedback from online visitors or customers, is the “benefit” of gaining insight into customer opinion outweighed by the “cost” of reading loads of individual pieces of feedback?

A: Absolutely. There is no more important contributor to increased conversions than to gain a deep understanding of what is going through the minds of your customers and also what is on the minds of qualified visitors who choose not to become your customers. In all of our engagements with companies, we’ve never encountered a single one that gathered too much feedback from visitors and customers, and almost all companies did far too little of it. You’re right that there’s a cost to gathering feedback because it not only must be digested, but it also must be acted upon or you’ve merely succeeded in wasting everyone’s time. Once most people complete a cycle of gathering feedback, acting on it, and seeing the results, they’re hooked.

Q: What would you suggest for smaller companies that already built their website and have limited funds for multivariate testing or other types of conversion-optimization analysis?

A: We’re firm believers in being bold in your tests. As we said earlier, you must gain a deep understanding of what your customers like, in addition to what’s holding back your qualified visitors who don’t buy. When you have that foundation, then you can skip all the “meek tweaks” that take forever to test. Instead, you can be highly effective on a small budget by looking for major revenue arteries that you can unclog. The great news is after just one or two of these well-researched bold tests, you’ll have increased revenues with which to pull away from your competition even faster.

Q: Are there any specific website sections or processes that in general, benefit more from the CRE Methodology?

A: Not in general. Though many sites will benefit from bold testing of the home page by virtue of the amount of visitors that page gets, other sites have certain hot products, or perhaps a big issue with their checkout process. In those cases, focusing on the hot-product page or the shopping cart may yield the biggest results. It all comes back to two key concepts: understanding your visitors and customers, and measuring everything.

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