53-Point Proven CRO Checklist: Increase Conversion Rates (Free, “All Killer, No Filler”)
“What do you want?!” I yell.
“How much do you want?!”
“MORE MORE MORE!” the imaginary digital crowd chants, containing you and every other entrepreneur / marketer.
Conversion rate optimization or conversion optimization — or just plain ol’ CRO — is the “process” (we’ve been told) for growing your sales and leads online.
CRO is the act of making changes to your website or landing page in order to persuade more people to buy.
And yeah, if you do it for a living as a consultant or agency, of course, it is a process.
For us busy startups and business owners though, processes and systems are great but…
As Elon Musk put it:
“The problem with systems is that when you think about it, everything is a system. Heck, your dog is a system.”
So, systems are all great and fine, but this what matters for our businesses:
Is it making us more sales, revenue, profit—are we making more $?
Otherwise, we say “Forget it…” and move on to the next priority because time isn’t infinite…
As another philosopher (i.e. supermodel Linda Evangelista) once put it:
“I don’t get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day.”
So that’s why I put together today’s article + checklist, to save you time and grow your conversion rate.
This checklist is based on my experience…
- Completing over 650 digital marketing projects for clients since I started AutoGrow in 2010…
- 12+ years as an entrepreneur with 10 (legit) products created, so far. Some succeeded and others did not and I learned from those…
- And, completing a hands-on study of 313 proven, AB-tested conversion case studies. This study led me to launch of our newest product, Proven Sales Conversion Pack.
So here’s what the checklist can help you with.
- Conversion optimization for email optins…
- For more client leads
- For more online sales
Before we get into the checklist, let me give you some basic conversion principles.
These will serve as a guide so you’ll be more successful when it comes time to apply it…
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What Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is NOT about:
- Conversion optimization isn’t about “getting more clicks”
- It’s not about getting more impressions
- It’s not about having a system to do CRO (although that would be nice to have in the long-term)
- It’s not about “improving the user experience” (although, this would be a nice thing to work towards)
For 99% of the people reading this (YOU) who own businesses or work to help others with their marketing, CRO is about one thing:
Driving More Sales.
To do that, you need to successfully persuade the maximum number of people to buy your stuff (or fill out your forms in the case of lead generation).
The problem is, it’s much easier to sell to people face-to-face or even over the phone because—you’re only selling to one person.
With one person, you can customize your pitch to address their concerns.
So, how do you do that on your website — and fast — while “looking cool” (i.e. avoiding “internet marketing” stereotypes that make customer skeptical) and regardless of how much traffic you have?
Well, we’re getting ahead of ourselves, because…
You need to first set a conversion goal
Your conversion goal is the desired action you will focus on growing.
In other words, you want more people to do THIS THING.
So which will is it?
- Getting more people to checkout (buy online)
- Getting more people to click to your checkout page
- Getting more people to fill out your lead generation form
- Increasing the quality of your leads
- Growing your email list
You have to choose one because you can’t focus on multiple goals at the same time. Otherwise it’s like trying to run in two or more directions at once.
Have you ever tried that? It’s difficult… You know… Not that I actually tried it… Last Sunday around 2pm…
CRO that grows your revenue doesn’t have to take a lot of time or require you to have millions of visitors to your site (although that certainly doesn’t hurt)…
Here’s how to do CRO fast (even if you’re a startup without a ton of traffic)
CRO companies are paid $10,000’s for their expertise.
What I found in my research for my Sales Conversion Pack was that these companies and consultants were all getting results the same way.
You see, they were guided to grow conversions based on ideas that didn’t come from them (98% of the time). Instead the ideas came from people who used their clients’ websites.
The following is that most common source of data for all the winning changes observed across 100’s of case studies.
The part is that these are so simple for you to use (and even automate! Just let them run inside your sales funnel / on your site and review once a month!).
Here’s what they are:
- Email Surveys — Setup a free account on CognitoForms.com, create a 3 question form to ask people what they think of your content and offers, what problem they want to solve, and/or what’s holding them back from buying. Shoot it out as a newsletter or incorporate it into an email automation.
- On-Site Surveys — Gather similar data from people who may not always be members of your audience (email list). Learn why they leave your site without subscribing or buying, and what you can do to better capture their interest.
- Post-Purchase Follow-up — Use a simple landing page and/or email follow-up campaign for a variety of conversion related benefits: ask people how you’re doing, how you can improve, gather testimonials as social proof, what they like best about your product / service, what they like least, what “tipped” their decision to buy—and what made them almost not buy.
- Layout Your Funnel, Visually — Visualizing the steps (and micro-decisions to be made) helps you empathize with potential buyers as they make their journey to become customers or clients. For instance, I used Google Drawings to help me create our product, the Funnel Diagram Pack. Using this product or creating your own funnel diagram may help you to ID conversion bottlenecks, like…
- Discovering Pages with a Bounce Rate — A high bounce rate, which you can easily find via your Google Analytics dashboard, may indicate an issue with the copy, page design, or the offer you’re making.
- Heatmap / Scrollmap Tracking — CrazyEgg offers a great (and affordable) solution for understanding where people “look” on your webpages, and how far down they scroll.
- User Session Recording — Similar to watching someone during a live user test, you can watch in a video recording what individual people do on your site. Mouseflow offers a great tool for doing this.
- User Testing (Written, Grouped) — See what groups of people have to say about your site / funnel / landing page. Do they trust it? Do they love it? UserInput.io offers a solid solution for doing this (fast).
- User Testing (F&F) — User test live, one-on-one, with friends or family members you trust to give you honest (and useful) feedback.
- User Testing (Video) — Short videos of people talking aloud while they walk through your website adds a new dimension of understanding to how people view what you’re selling. This is some of the best money I’ve ever spent (I recommend UserBob.com for this. UserInput.io recently launched its own option to do this as well).
Now that we understand some of the data-collecting tools, it’s useful for me to point out what areas of your site you SHOULD focus on, based on my 150+ hour study of 313 AB-test conversion case studies.
These will give you your best “biggest bang for your buck” as they say.
But, have you ever wondered who “they” are? Hm. Deep question for another day.
You should subscribe to our newsletter if you like conversion optimization mixed with shallow philosophical musings 😀
What areas of your site SHOULD you focus on optimizing first?
When I was creating the Proven Sales Conversion Pack, I noticed a number of patterns as I read through over 300 conversion case studies.
These patterns helped me identify “high points of leverage” that can dramatically grow your conversion rate with relatively small changes.
This means if the changes you make relate to these parts of your website, then you’ll grow your conversion rate much faster and with less effort.
(To learn more about insights like these and other conversion patterns, read my article here.)
Here are the areas of your site to focus on optimizing:
- Image choice
- CTA Buttons
- The text / area immediately above or below your CTA buttons
- Pricing presentation
- Navigation area
- Headlines / value proposition
- Limits on opportunity
- Design layout / arrangement
- Forms / form fields
- Checkout page
- Size of value proposition or benefit elements / text size
Now that you know about the basics…
- Why setting a specific conversion goal is key.
- How to quickly gather actionable data.
- What areas of your site give you the best ROI.
… Now it’s time for the checklist.
Again, this checklist is based on hard data.
I didn’t just “pop” a wet finger to the air to see which way the wind was blowing.
No. This is from my 12+ years of hands-on experience AND an extensive review of 313 credible, AB-tested, conversion case studies, across dozens of markets and every imaginable type of business.
From that, I’m giving you a single checklist to grow your conversions with these proven strategies.
Also, if a strategy is specific to something like lead generation or list building or converting online sales, I made a note telling you that.
Each strategy in this checklist is organized according to the 11 Laws of Sales Funnel Physics.
I’ll be publishing a complete ebook on the topic of “Sales Funnel Physics” in the near future. In the meantime, go to Conversion Insight #4 on this article if you need more info on what this is and why it is is a “real thing”, not just theory.
Now, let’s increase your conversion rate…
The 53-point perfect checklist to increase your conversion rate
1 – Law of Confidence (People want what they see as popular or trustworthy)
- Include press logos.
- Add testimonials.
- Add 3rd party accreditations, awards, honors and memberships to your website. Displaying these will boost credibility.
- Consider using trust badges. These often (but not always) are 3rd party security seals, like the McAfee or Norton. It’s also possible to make your own social proof, but that’s an advanced topic for another day.
- Include 3rd party research stats and data to support your stated value proposition.
- Advertise your social media follower count.
- Use other vanity stats.
- Use authentic images of you / your team / your company—avoid “commercial” feeling and overused stock photos. Here’s how one company grew their lead generation rate by 34% by using an authentic image of their founder on the homepage (this example is one of the hundreds in my Conversion Pack):
2 – Law of Visibility (If it isn’t seen, it won’t sell)
- Make website visitors aware of what you sell (maximize visibility) via navigation links, CTA buttons, pop-ups, and in-line CTAs or sidebar widgets on your blog.
- Pay special attention to your headlines because they get read more than other text on your page (bullet points as well).
- Include a big, beautiful CTA button.
- The primary call to action should never out of sight. In other words, the very action you want people to take on a page stays within view and “follows” the visitor down the page. Obviously, it shouldn’t block the reading of key content. Again, the principle here is increasing visibility for key elements often means increased conversions.
3 – Law of Repetition (“Say it again, because I may change my mind.”)
- Email List Building — Ask for opt-ins repeatedly, for the same incentive (i.e. lead magnet), but reword it to appeal in different ways.
- Use an autoresponder to target people who visited your landing page.
- Use retargeting ads to bring back prospective leads and customers who left before converting.
- Repeat your primary CTA more than once. Here’s a before and after example from my Sales Conversion Pack which grew leads for this company by 80%:
4 – Law of Clarity (Be clear, not clever, to convey understanding through text and design)
- Perform a user test to check if people understand what you’re selling. Don’t guide them. Instead, listen and take notes.
- Keep your words simple so people know what you’re offering.
- Say that it’s free.
- Explain or hint in a clear way at what you’re giving them in the copy.
- Add a “How It Works” section for additional clarity.
- Visual clarity is as powerful as copy clarity. Use images to further clarify how the product or service works. We process images much faster than words. Here’s proof of the power of visual clarity from another Conversion Pack case study. In this case, it grew free trial downloads for the business by 85%:
5 – Law of Maximization (Everyone wants maximum value)
- Use word choices that convey an immediate benefit, rather than a neutral or delayed benefit (e.g. “watch” is better than “request”).
- Talk about benefits. Explain why it’s valuable.
- State your USP.
- Price anchor. Make your product or service seem cheap by comparing it to something more expensive. For example, “You COULD get a tutor for your child to help him or her read better at $50-$100 per session. Or you could spend $99 one time on our 12-week reading software”.
- Offer an incentive to buy now (discount, value add-on, etc.).
- Survey customers on why they bought. In the copy and design, feature these top benefits prominently. Like for this company in a case study example from my Conversion Pack who grew sales 64% by using surveys to guide their redesign.
6 – The Law of Alignment (You’ll convert to the degree that you match customer preferences, both conscious and unconscious)
- Context matters: make sure it’s relevant (in wording… where it’s promoted on your site… who it’s promoted to, etc.). It should all be “in alignment”.
- Make an explainer video. A significant portion of your audience will prefer video, while others prefer to read.
- Tell a story, either in your video o somewhere in your funnel / landing page. Stories are memorable and there are a number of case studies that show they work to increase conversions.
- Match customer vocabulary. Copy the language used by customers to describe their problem or why your service is valuable.
- Make landing page headlines match with the ad-links or CTA button text people (Law of Alignment). This is an example of “explicit” alignment, meaning you set and should fulfill an expectation. If your CTA button text says “Add to Cart” but then a customer is taken to checkout, this is an example of misalignment. Fixing it, like the below AB tested case study from my Conversion Pack, can grow your leads by 38% or better:
7 – The Law of Emotion (We buy for reasons unrelated to a value like a desire for status, kindness, or guilt)
- Use emotion. Test injecting emotion, like an aspirational appeal, via word choice in your copy and/or image choice.
- Start selling by defining and “agitating” the problem. If people believe you understand their problem, they are more likely to believe you have the best solution for them.
8 – The Law of Range (Different pricing packages or more total offers means more sales)
- More lead magnet offers = more subscribers. Multiple lead magnets make it more likely visitors will convert.
- Provide 2-3 pricing options.
- Frame the value of your product or service in different ways for different segments of your audience. For example, the dating website was able to increase their conversion rate by 304% by reframing the value proposition for a specific segment of their audience:
9 – The Law of Loss (People act more often based on potential losses than potential gains)
- Email List Building — Address people’s underlying fears.
- Email List Building —Add a “100% privacy guaranteed” policy line (but do NOT mention the word “spam”).
- Lower commitment lead magnets often convert better (e.g. ebooks vs. checklists).
- Include an FAQ section. This should be composed of the top 4-8 most common questions that customers have. To learn more about how to create an FAQ that increases your sales, read this article.
- Scarcity. Limit the quantity of your product or service that’s available. You want people to buy now, so take initiative and control the supply of your product or service.
- Immediacy. Again, give people a reason to purchase NOW not later by making the offer timed.
- 30 Day Money-Back Guarantee. This is standard BECAUSE it works well. You can even sweeten the guarantee to make it 60 days “and we’ll come to your house and make you some fresh squeezed lemonade if it doesn’t work out.” It can be a little ridiculous and over the top like that too.
- Lead Generation —Add a free trial option into your sales funnel. For example, my company, AutoGrow.co, is a happy customer of SamCart because initially for their SaaS product, they offered it with a 30-day money back guarantee, I decided not to sign-up at that time but they emailed me with an offer for a two-month free trial. Today, we happily pay them about $1200/year for their product. Free trials work because they widen your funnel and reduce the perception of risk by allowing customers to try before they buy. Consider adding a free trial as a downsell to whatever it is you’re offering.
10 – The Law of Friction (Difficulty or distraction that holds customers back)
- Remove navigation and footer links that take people out of your funnel.
- Have one primary CTA on a key landing page, not three (Call us! No wait, schedule a demo! No wait, join our webinar!).
- Minimize distracting copy or design elements.
- Limit form fields to as few as possible.
- Use heatmap and video-based user-testing data.
- Ecommerce / Digital Products — Buying from you should be one bite-sized step, not multiple decisions in a long form. If it is, break it up into singular step-based decisions and show a customer their progress as they move to complete their order.
- Delete clutter to limit distractions that hurt conversions. Here is what this might look like in a before and after case study example from our Sales Conversion Pack:
Note: the 11th Law of Sales Funnel Physics is The Law of Scale (To grow traffic, leverage that which has distribution or traffic)
It is not applicable to our discussion on how to increase your conversion rate today. It deals with traffic generation, a topic for another day…
Want a treasure chest of AB tested ideas that will inspire you and make it easy to copy-and-paste the success of others on to your website?
Then check out my newest product, Proven Sales Conversion Pack.
Quick thoughts on converting more product sales vs. services lead gen
- For Services — You can control the quality of your leads via the number and type of questions you require people to answer on your lead generation / contact form.
- As such, more form fields increases friction (see law on checklist above), but it might also increase lead quality.
- For Product Sales — I’ve heard it’s a “conversion best practice” for some marketers who sell digital products to ask for more info than is necessary, like a mailing address. The theory is that “people trust a checkout page more it isn’t not only asking for email and credit card number.” In my research have not seen any published data to support this idea, nor have my own AB tests confirmed this. It may be market dependent (i.e. older consumer trust the online buying process less in general). But it may also be a comfort preference that will go away. AB test it on your site to know for certain.
- For Services — Another counter-intuitive alternative to increasing lead quality (and conversions) is to add an additional step to your funnel (i.e. require leads to watch a demo video before they are shown option to jump on a phone call).
- For Product Sales — Unlike a lead, which requires just filling out a form, the buying decision for a product is often made completely online, based on research on and off your site. Keeping this context in mind will help you better empathize with potential customers and grow your conversions.
Conclusion & the question: should you apply EVERYTHING in the conversion checklist?
You know the basics:
- Set a specific conversion goal.
- How to quickly gather actionable data.
- What areas of your site give you the best ROI.
And now you have a complete optimization checklist that shows you how to quickly grow your conversion rates.
The idea isn’t for you to necessarily cram EVERYTHING on the checklist into a single landing page.
It has to flow and it has to make sense (first) from the customer’s point of view.
If you can achieve that, then including 53 out of 53 points from the checklist on your website makes sense.
Want to know how best to make it all “flow” together? In an upcoming article, I’ll be sharing my 10-point landing page copywriting template. It’s made me (and our past clients) a lot of money.
So, which point on the checklist did you find most surprising? Any “light-bulbs” go off as you read it over?
Is there anything you can think of to add to the checklist that I may have overlooked?
Leave a comment, let me know. I’d love to hear from you.
Keep Convertin’, Stay Focused,