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4 Best Practices to Kick Off Your Website Optimization Program

When you’re building a website optimization program, there are various steps you need to take before you can start implementing and testing your optimization ideas. Some of these steps include choosing your metrics, analyzing your audience, and, of course, strategically brainstorming ideas and prioritizing which ideas you’ll test first. While the answers to each of these questions will differ for every business, there are best practices to follow to make sure you’re heading in the right direction. Here are 4 best practices to help you kick off an effective website optimization program.

Start with Identifying the Metrics That Move Your Business

As with any of your marketing efforts, it’s important to begin your optimization program by looking at your metrics. Which metrics matter most to your business and impact your bottom line? Which metrics are your team directly responsible for? Conversions (e.g. newsletter sign-ups, content downloads, or demo requests) in B2B and purchases/revenue in e-commerce are common metrics you might consider, but make sure to answer these questions for your unique business.

Once you’ve determined the metrics you want to impact and measure in your optimization efforts, you’ll need to make sure they are measurable today. Essentially, you want to confirm you can track these numbers in your current analytics platform(s) so you can measure your impact on them over time. Be sure to first pinpoint the baseline rate (or your current rate) for whichever metric(s) you’ll be leveraging so you can compare any future changes against it.

Identify the Drop-offs in Your Funnel

Now that you know which metrics you want to optimize for, it’s time to identify the drop-off points in your funnel that link directly to these metrics. This will not only help you better improve your chosen metrics but will also help you remove any critical friction points on your website. There are several tools and approaches to help you analyze your main drop-off points:

  • Heatmaps: Heatmaps are a useful tool to see where your visitors are focusing most on your website. A heatmap is a graphical representation of interactions on your website, essentially showing you how “hot” or “cold” certain elements of your site are, for instance how frequently certain CTAs or buttons are clicked.  
  • Session replay: Similar to heatmaps, session replay tools help you understand how visitors are interacting with your website. However, session replay helps you take a deeper look into behavior by showing you exactly what journey a visitor took on your site, enabling you to hypothesize “why” and brainstorm optimization ideas to improve the journey.
  • User testing: User testing goes beyond analytics tools and involves real people navigating your website and giving feedback in real time. This can be conducted either in-person or remotely, by your team or a third-party service. This type of testing allows you to get more in-depth feedback and see your website through your visitor’s eyes.
  • Exit surveys: With exit surveys, you can ask your website visitor why they’re leaving your site. An exit survey is prompted by a visitor showing signs of exit intent, such as when their cursor moves toward their browser toolbar. Asking a simple question such as the reason for their visit or what your site was missing can help you gauge the visitor’s intent or what they were looking for but couldn’t find during their visit. Consider testing both multiple-choice and open-ended questions in exit surveys.

Once you’ve identified your main drop-off points, it’s time to brainstorm strategies and tactics to reduce friction in these areas. For example, if your main issue is encouraging visitors to click through from your homepage to other pages and content, consider using bold, attention-grabbing messaging and graphics above the fold and a strategically placed CTA or other links. If visitors are spending time on your website but are not engaging with any of your CTAs or content, consider the use of a chatbot to better understand their needs and interests and provide an extra layer of personalization. If visitors are engaging with your site content but not requesting a demo, try adding more customer testimonials or use cases that are relevant to their industry. These are just a few examples of ways to move your website visitors down the funnel, and taking a deep dive into your analytics will help you understand them.

Consider Short-term vs. Long-term Iteration

Once you’ve determined the drop-off points in your funnel that you’ll be addressing, it’s time to consider whether or not your optimization efforts will focus on short-term iteration (campaigns that focus on real-time feedback and are linked to your online metrics) or long-term iteration (campaigns that run for a longer period of time to reach a greater offline goal). With short-term iteration, you’ll focus on getting quick results directly on your website (e.g. increasing adds to cart and purchases). With long-term iteration, you’ll be optimizing for an offline goal that might take longer to reach (e.g. driving new leads down the sales funnel that convert into won customers, and then driving customer reviews on a third-party site). You might be working toward both of these things, but each should have its own associated optimization campaigns.

When focusing on short-term iteration, consider using the ICE Framework to prioritize your optimization ideas. This CRO framework focuses on three components to help you rank your test ideas: Impact, Confidence, and Ease. With this framework, your team rates ideas based on the impact you think they will make on your site, the confidence you have in them, and the ease of implementing them. Then you’ll prioritize the ideas with the highest impact and confidence levels and lowest effort level to ensure efficiency.

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Focus on Local Optimization First

Once you’ve identified the key metrics you want to improve, main drop-off points in the funnel, and the iteration method for your optimization program, the final best practice to keep in mind is taking the time to think through the customer journey for each end conversion goal and all the steps that your visitor takes before getting there. Local website optimization focuses on first optimizing for and meeting “nearby” goals in the journey instead of focusing just on optimizing for the end result.

For example, if your biggest friction point is getting visitors to move from just browsing your site to actually buying your product, think of how you can optimize all of the steps that you’ve identified and lead up to that purchase: the visitor clicking through from the home page to the Product page where they can review how your solution works, the visitor clicking through from the Product page to the Pricing page so they can see all of the package options, and then the visitor selecting a package and following the prompts to enter their credit card information and buy your product.

And just imagine – there are numerous ways you can optimize each of the experiences surrounding each of these steps. That said, if you identify and then optimize for every step in a visitor’s journey and not just the end result (buying the product, in this case), you’ll greatly improve your chances of getting them to complete your end conversion goal.

Final Thoughts

Before you can start testing optimization ideas on your website, there are various measures you need to take to truly understand your visitors and their behavior and strategize your optimization program accordingly. Only then will you be able to provide relevant customer experiences and positively impact your organization’s bottom line.

After you’ve embraced these 4 best practices, consider these 71 experimentation ideas to help you brainstorm optimization ideas to test on your site and bring your optimization efforts to life.

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