A bad workman blames his tools. A good workman makes sure his tools allow his abilities to shine.
Every person who wants to be at the top end of their profession has to have a great set of tools: for a Michelin starred chef it could be the sharpest knives money can buy, for a Premiership footballer it’s boots which employ all the latest performance enhancing technology, for a concert pianist it’s the Steinway or Bosendorfer grand piano.
Conversion rate optimisation is all about a fine blend of science and art, analysing opportunities and finding the most creative solution to help boost a site’s efficiency. It requires a broad skill base, which covers both the creative and analytical aspects of web marketing, and as such, the tools which can help an optimisation project can cover a whole host of areas.
As long as commerce has existed, being able to provide exactly what your customers want has been key to business success. Thankfully the web lends itself perfectly to being able to analyse all sorts of behaviour, allowing us to build a hugely insightful picture of the interaction with the site:
KissInsights – Advanced visitor survey tool. Target relevant questions at users in chosen scenarios. Great for finding answers to questions such as ‘what is preventing user from signing up?’ and ‘why are potential customers exiting at this stage of the process?’
4Q – Set 4 simple questions for your visitors and get insightful feedback to help steer improvements to your site. No frills tool which gets actionable data.
ClickTale – Record visitor mouse movements and create heatmaps of user activity on the site. Great for getting insight into how users interact with your site.
Google Analytics – [BBC style disclaimer: other tools are available] The closest thing we have to a ‘standard’ for web analytics, by progressing past the standard reports and get stuck into Advanced Segments and Custom Reports, you can lose yourself for days digging into your visitor, content and referrer data.
crazyegg – Provides some really insightful visualizations of users interacting with your site, from the standard heatmaps through to a referrer by referrer confetti view.
UserTesting – Quick and easy user testing. Get 15min videos of users performing tasks you set and answering questions about your site from a user point of view.
Once the research and analysis is done and the creative variations have been decided on, it’s time for the most important part of the process. Only by testing new variations against the existing versions can you measure the value of the work carried out and get insight for future site iterations on what does and doesn’t work. There are a huge range of tools available to do this, and the choice is usually influenced most heavily by a combination of personal preference and available budget:
Google Website Optimizer – Another free tool from Google. Helps you test and measure the impact of changes made to your site. Easy, intuitive set-up of a/b testing and multivariate testing.
Visual Website Optimizer – marketing itself as a “dead simple test designer”, VWO will allow you to set-up advanced a/b and split testing without the need for a huge amount of technical knowledge or support. Has some great features including the ability to edit content ‘in place’.
SiteSpect – As a more enterprise-level solution, SiteSpect integrates a-b/multivariate testing with advanced behavioural targeting and visitor segmentation.
When it comes to strategies, one great way to give your conversion rate a boost is to use the information available to deliver a custom site for the user (based on search keywords, page viewed, referring source etc). By ensuring that the most useful information is displayed to a visitor you can provide a hugely relevant user experience, and thus improve the conversion rate:
BT Buckets – Used to create user segments (buckets) for the purpose of serving personalised content to create more relevant user experiences. Easily integrates with Google Analytics, AdWords, Facebook and Twitter.
Personyze – Advanced site personalisation tool. Helps to deliver relevant content to users based on a huge range of factors including keyword usage, pages viewed, internal search use, geographic location and visit duration.
YSlow – Numerous studies have confirmed what common sense tells us – page load speed affects conversion rates. Time is money, literally. YSlow lets you measure any page either on the site or through a convenient browser extension and will then provide recommendations to help you improve load times (Note: Google has recently launched their Page Speed Service to help sites deliver content in a more timely manner).
Olark – This would cross boundaries in a Venn diagram with the customer insight tools. Olark is a live chat tool which allows you to monitor and engage with customers as they travel through the purchase process. By doing so you can help improve your conversion rate and get an insight into the mind of your visitors (find obstacles etc.).
Notable – Most conversion projects include a number of stakeholders and the involvement of team members with different skillsets (designers, marketers, analysts). This screenshot tool is really useful for annotating webpages in a collaborative manner.
ConceptFeedback – Submit your mockups and design elements for some expert analysis. Useful for getting quick, impartial feedback.
So, those are some of the tools and services that I find allow me to get some great results from conversion optimisation projects. It’s always a case of personal preference so it would be great to hear what other people find helps them when carrying out site optimisations.