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Conversion optimization might sound overwhelming, but luckily, each aspect of the optimization process requires specific tools to identify patterns of visitor behavior.
These tools can be divided in four main categories according to their purpose:
- Research & analytics tools
- Experimentation tools
- Process management tools
- Miscellaneous tools
1. Research & analytics tools
Before any work on optimizing a website can begin, the first order of business is to establish what exactly is going wrong. This process is called research, and it serves two purposes: to establish a baseline for performance, and to uncover existing issues.
As you know, the only way to conduct research is to observe the behavior of website visitors over time, and draw insights and conclusions from their interactions with the site.
Although most tools track visitor behavior, there are differences in how they work and what aspects they track. Research tools can broadly be divided in two buckets: quantitative and qualitative research tools.
- Quantitative research makes use of numbers, percentages and other real data.
- Qualitative tools, on the other hand, are used to determine the opinions, attitudes, and motivation of your prospects.
All research tools rely on a simple fact: accessing a website means leaving some information with the site owner.
And the data is there to stay, even if the customer only visited briefly and left without directly interacting with the content.
This is the key advantage of ecommerce websites over brick and mortar stores. No visitor can leave your store without leaving a trace of their presence on the website.
If you set your measuring tools up properly, you’ll know not only how many visitors there were at any given moment, but how they reached the website, what products they looked at, whether they started to buy and at what step they abandoned the purchase, etc.
A wealth of information is available when you use any of the popular analytical tools, such as Google Analytics (the most popular tool on the market), KISSmetrics, or Adobe Marketing Suite.
Other tools enable you to visualize the most important engagement indicators — clicks, scrolls, form completion, and more.
A brief introduction to Google Analytics
Since Google Analytics is the most frequently used research tool, we’ll use it for most illustrations of how to use analytics to measure performance. Google Analytics measurements are:
- Acquisition: How visitors reach your site
- Audience: Who those visitors are
- Behavior: What those visitors do
- Conversions: How visitors become customers
By analyzing how visitors get to your website, you can improve your marketing efforts and adjust your spend on different marketing and traffic acquisition channels. Acquisition makes it easy to find out how different channels perform in terms of bringing the visitors, and how many of those visitors convert.
Audience reports contain basic information on who your visitors are: country, region, or state and city); the proportion of new and returning visitors; the language they speak, etc. Using this information, it’s possible to find out how different visitors interact with the website. This is the basic reference point for your personalization efforts.
Behavior reports show how visitors interact with the website, including what pages they visit and how they navigate the website and in what sequence This information tells you what particular pages of content sequences perform the best. Then, you adjust your content and user experience to match visitors expectations.
Finally, conversion reports shed light on how visitors convert. By setting up a conversion funnel, it’s possible to find out what step represents the greatest obstacle for visitors.
Using Analytics, you can frame questions and form ideas for improving specific sections of your website. For example, if you detect low engagement with a particular content, or that visitors drop out at specific funnel steps, you come up with ideas to improve it.
Analytics, however, is not the sole source of information. You can obtain measurements from other tools, too.
For example, using Analytics, it’s possible to get information about where users click on an individual web page. However, for truly accurate visualization, it can be more revealing to use specialized tools, like heatmapping.
These tools show where visitors moved their mouse pointers, how fast they scrolled, and what areas of individual web pages they clicked.
Other analytical tools specialize in analyzing forms and funnels. They offer data and insights that would otherwise be hard to get. For more details on these tools and how to use them, check out our series of Google Analytics posts and free ebook.
Visual tracking tools
Although Google Analytics enables you to track interactions, you won’t be able to visualize those interactions easily. Enter: tools that make interactions visual! Heatmapping is one way of visualizing the intensity of interactions between visitors and your site.
Currently, this niche of tools offers ever-increasing capabilities and can be used in multiple research types. Most of the tools include diverse elements that enable tracking of funnels, forms, surveys, and even user testing.
Here are the best-in-class tools for heatmapping, listed in no particular order:
1. Crazy Egg
Crazy Egg is the first and most well-known tracking tool. It has evolved to provide more than mapping mouse movements, clicks, and scrolling:. it also includes session recordings and a “confetti view” that allows you to segment clicks according to their traffic source.
Hotjar offers many features in addition to its basic functionality, so you can track funnels and forms and run surveys. One of its main advantages is its limited free plan, which you can use to get acquainted with this tool before you decide to subscribe to a plan.
3. Lucky Orange
Lucky Orange has similar features to Hotjar, and adds a live chat app to the mix! It also offers traffic segmentation (although not as versatile as Crazy Egg).
An additional feature of MouseFlow is the so-called “attention heatmap,” which tracks how much time a visitor actually spends reading the content on the page you're tracking.
Since all of these tools are similar, picking one is a matter of your individual preference.
Form tracking tools
Form tracking is a critical aspect of conversion optimization, since most purchase activities are tied to filling out forms. Accurate form tracking and understanding of customer-form interactions is necessary to fix any problems that can stop conversion.
Some of the best-known tools for tracking forms are Formisimo, UseItBetter, and Piwik. While the first two are client-side apps, Piwik requires a server-side installation. It provides more capabilities, but at the cost of being harder to install and maintain (be aware that it requires developer involvement).
2. Experimentation tools
There are many testing/experimentation tools currently available.
The one difference that may appear significant is the statistical model each tool uses to calculate test results. There are two major models in statistics: frequentist inference and Bayesian statistics. Both have the same purpose: to enable us to test hypotheses.
- Frequentist inference relies on the fact that features of any set of data can be determined by measuring a limited sample and comparing results.
- Bayesian statistics takes a more holistic view, using both data available from the past and the data obtained during the experiment itself. The Bayesian method was rarely used in the past, due to the intensive computations needed to obtain results.
As computational power grew, the use of Bayesian statistics has gained traction, as it enables optimizers to reach results a little faster than the more traditional frequentist approach.
However, from the user perspective, the difference is minimal. Selecting either Bayesian or frequentist based tool is a matter of individual preference
Let’s take a quick look at some of the major testing tools on the market:
Optimizely is perhaps the best-known tool, with 44% of current market share. It's very approachable, with a large knowledge base that provides educational articles not only on the tool itself, but on many vital concepts of conversion optimization.
It relies on a subscription model in addition to the costs of running the test. Its wide acceptance and ease of use make it a good choice for conducting testing on medium-size sites.
Visual Web Optimizer
Another tool on the market is Visual Web Optimizer. Currently it holds 22% of the market share, and represents a good alternative to Optimizely. The costs are about the same, and the tool’s accessibility is similar. It’s also best for medium-size sites.
This tool ranks third in the market share, and is part of the Adobe Marketing Suite. While relatively expensive, it is a powerful way to track performance and experiment on your website. Due to its price and relative complexity, it’s a better fit for large websites.
Google Optimize is relatively new to the market, and is a smart play from the company that has become almost a synonym for “internet”.
Its advantages include close integration with Google Analytics, a wide user base, and an extensive knowledge base. Plus, the initial cost of using it is zero (though it does come with some limitations). This makes this tool ideal for trying out experimentation and making some headway.
This is another popular tool with a following, despite its relatively low market share. It’s simple to use, easy to implement, and a good fit for small and medium sites.
3. Process management tools
While all the tools mentioned above help with individual conversion optimization activities, there are specialized tools to help you manage the process.
Those tools allow teams to work together, track progress, and plan ahead. They can also help your team create documentation to report the results.
Effective Experiments allows you to track the results of your experiments, track analytics, set goals, and share tasks and documents. You can use all of these features to quickly create a report summarizing the work.
Iridion was the first dedicated CRO management tool to appear on the market. They offer much the same features as their competitors
Due to the large number of activities and experiments run by programs, it can be easy to lose track of progress. For every team managing a large number of projects, using one of these dedicated tools is a must.
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