Brian Massey from Conversion Sciences gives us a crash course on conversion rate optimization and explains why it is an essential tool for businesses of all sizes.

Brian Massey is the owner of Conversion Sciences, one of the first agencies to focus exclusively on website optimization. By combining his technical and marketing skills alongside extensive experience, Brian has built a reputation for solving complex problems.

Brian is a Conversion Optimization Evangelist and spends a great deal of his time speaking and writing about conversion.  

Listen to the full interview, and read about the major takeaways that followed.


What Exactly Is Conversion Rate Optimization?

Nobody puts up a website to generate traffic. We spend all of our time and effort attracting traffic to our site. But the ultimate goal is to develop traffic for our website who will subscribe to our services, buy our products, begin a conversation with us by giving us their contact information, becoming a lead, etc.

These are the reasons we put up websites. Conversion Rate Optimization is not about more traffic. It’s about turning visitors into qualified leads and customers. It’s a process of essentially getting rid of those people that aren’t going to buy from us, and then opening our arms and welcoming those who are in our target market.
This includes design, copy, buyer psychology, layout. Are you presenting a credible face? Are you making visitors feel secure?


CRO Is Essential for Small Businesses Too

If your business is considering conversion optimization, there’s a couple of factors that will determine how quickly you will get a return on your conversion optimization investment.

The first of these factors is the average order size. A business may be small, like a private university, but when they close a “deal” when they gain a new student, they are talking about tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of a college education. So their payback on small changes in their conversion rate improves their ability to bring in applicants by 2%, 5%, or even 10%. They get paid back quickly due to the large size of the purchase.

Long-term value is a great way to measure your return on investment in conversion optimization. If you’re an eCommerce site and your average order size is $100 or $200, then your payback is going to be a bit longer. But if you are really good at getting your visitors back to buy, and you have a lifetime value of $500 or $1000, then using that to measure the payback on your conversion optimization is probably going to be more accurate. You’re also going to see that your payback on conversion optimization efforts will be paid back on a regular basis.

If you’re selling books, and have an average order value of $20, it’s going to be a much longer payback period, so you’re going to need a higher volume for optimizing in order to get a return on your investment.


The Most Common Conversion Mistakes

The whole purpose of research in conversion optimization is to either increase the sample size of people contributing to a website or to improve the quality of that sample.

Brian explains: As a marketer, I’m familiar with the customer. I’ve read the marketing research. I’ve studied the personas at some point, but I’m going to be writing this landing page with a sample size of one. I’m going to be the only one contributing to it.

So I’m going to put onto the page the things that I think are most persuasive or the things that the visitor is looking for. I’m going to be the final arbiter of that. Now, if I ask a designer to come in and take a look at that or tell me about that, we’ve increased the sample size to two. Two of us are providing input on this creative exercise. If I get the executive team and other people on it, I might be able to expand the sample size to 10.

Statistically, that’s an incredibly small sample size. And we are what the Eisenberg brothers called “inside the bottle”. When you’re inside the bottle, inside the business, you can’t read the label. So you’re blinded by what you believe to be true rather than being able to look at your business or product as your visitors are looking at them.

With conversion optimization, we want to increase the sample size. We want 25 or 50 or 100 people outside the business to take a look at the creative design. And that’s where these user research tools come in. 

Brian’s team analyzes the typical design process, which because of small sample sizes and poor input from external sources from prospects and customers, is not serving you well. Then they will increase the sample size and the quality of participants, as well as undertake research. That gives Brian indications that he’s going to be able to improve the website with this new creative effort.


What About Users Who Aren't Numbers Oriented?

Web designers and marketers should take a little offense at the thought that they can’t be math-y or science-y. Today it’s more expensive not to use behavioral data than it is to incorporate behavioral data. These research tools are cheap and easy to use. They are powerful tools and if marketers and web designers aren’t using them, they need to go back to print or go someplace where they won’t be as easily measured if they are afraid of using this data.

The tools themselves that are being created are much more user-friendly, like Google Optimize, Analytics and so on, so you can really utilize these kind of tools. Brian mentions he recently began using H Riffs, which presents data not formatted in Excel sheets. There are the data-savvy, like those more code-oriented or Excel-oriented tools, but Brian thinks marketers and site owners can utilize these tools.

Brian describes meetings he has with every marketer or web developer client, where he presents his findings using graphs, heat map reports, scroll map reports, samples from the session recordings and more. According to Brian, his clients know how to read these reports. They can look at a heat map report and understand what the hot spots are. They know how to look at a scroll map and see a page that has a scroll problem where the bottom two thirds are just dark blue.

So not only should we not underestimate marketers and web people, but Brian also thinks these marketers and professionals need to bring this data into more of their meetings to educate the rest of the organization. 


Where Is CRO headed?

Brian helped to create an environment where almost any SEO or design agency put conversion optimization on their website. But he claims some agencies are mistaking good design and best practices for conversion optimization. 

Nowadays, there is a next level of awareness that is really how we use behavioral data and behavioral science in the service of our prospects and customers, and it’s not just about being good at design.