Building an effective website is hard work, but all that hard work would be wasted without ongoing analysis and continual website improvements. There is a lot of chatter about optimizing site performance and integral to that is a good test plan to know the areas of the site that could perform better. It can be a tough task with hundreds of pages, multiple conversion points to measure, and competing priorities across departments. Setting up a precise testing structure is the first step towards achieving your goals.
What is a Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) Test Plan?
CRO is the method of using analytics and user feedback to improve the performance of your website. Based on KPI (Key Performance Indicators), CRO can be used to improve any website metric. This is where optimization or conversion testing comes in, to improve conversion, interaction and engagement on your website. There may be many conversion points important to your business that drive optimization and that should be tested, such as:
- Increasing the conversion rate of your newsletter signup.
- Making your call-to-action more apparent.
- Getting customers to check out a shopping cart.
- Better product information or imagery to increase selections.
- Testing out different messaging on a paid advertising landing page.
While options for testing on a website are endless, the total impact of these conversions in relation to other business objectives has to be taken into account. According to these priorities, goals have to be mapped out and ordered into a testing hierarchy. A test plan is then formed, which outlines questions such as who, what, why, when and where. What are testing? Why is this test important? When will this test start and stop? How and who will this testing be implemented on? Most importantly, where this test will be running on the website?
Optimization Testing Categories
Scientific optimization testing categories are as follows:
- A/B Split Testing – Simple testing of the current page’s element against a variation to compare changes and additions, to determine which element performs better.
- Multivariate Testing – Testing several elements at a time. The goal is to get an idea of which elements work together on a page to reach an objective.
- Experimental Design – Developing your own research method for an in-depth analysis of a specific element.
Why is CRO Important?
CRO is imperative to obtaining the right kind of customers, and increasing the rate of acquisition. It is about maximizing your effectiveness. More specifically, the benefits include:
- A higher conversion rate means a better ROI.
- Achieving maximum conversion rate of a given page or campaign.
- Greater cost effectiveness in converting visitors rather than attracting new ones.
- Increasing the satisfaction rate of your existing customers.
- Improving your brand identity by providing a more intuitive and easier interaction between your company and all online stakeholders.
Key Focus Areas of a Good Test Plan
Here are some keys to creating the perfect test approach:
1. Focus on your business goal.
Determine the key conversion points important to your business, their impact in relation to other business objectives and decide whether the page you’re testing drives those conversions, to make a decision on the starting point for your test plan.
2. Create a hypothesis.
Outline the hypothesis behind the variations you will be creating, to focus on the key area that will need improvement for the desired result. For example, why do you believe redesigning a button will increase CTR? This is also handy in getting agreement or approval for the test plan approach.
3. Determine a narrow list of KPIs.
Determine and document your KPIs for a successful test, so that you have an end success goal metric in mind before test launch. There may be varying viewpoints about the how to achieve goals but it is important to determine the key goals. For instance one person may think that changing the button from blue to yellow will increase clicks at a point in the checkout and another person that adding information about free shipping rates will increase movement along the purchase path. But when the goal is the same, it becomes easier to shortlist the actions for testing and keeping people in agreement as different elements are tried.
4. Make sure Analytics is structured for the optimization strategy.
Ensure that your data analyst is on board to give a proper hand off to whoever implements your tags, campaign IDs and general web analytics. And to assure the data backs up your testing decisions. Proper use of analytics and measurement shows visitor patterns to address, and helps you understand campaign results. Also, decide on the statistically significant number for your specific test purposes and an estimated time to reach that significance. This helps you schedule multiple tests and benchmarks to check your test data and make further adjustments.
5. Test and validate.
Once you’re confident of the key points, such as the measures and benchmarks to be checked along the way, run the test. This is an important time to revisit your definition of statistical significance, and adhere to it.
6. Analyze the results, learn, take action, and repeat.
This is the time to evaluate the test results and implement the winning changes. If the result shows poor conversions, dig deeper for a greater insight into the data to improve it in the next iteration. There is always a way to improve site performance, and it’s often through testing that we gain enough statistical insight to determine the next step.
Knowing the importance of conversion testing and optimization is half the job. Creating and implementing a successful test plan for CRO takes you the rest of the way. Businesses should understand that regular testing is a consistent, ongoing process and show enthusiasm for optimization, as it delivers real results. And, in the end, it is a key determinant between a good-enough website and a *killer* presence. Just ask Amazon.